What Business Are You Really In?

I go to a CrossFit gym and have been for about 7 years now. During a stretching session, I asked him: "What business are you really in?" His response, "I'm in the business of fun." He continued that exercise doesn't have to suck. It can be hard work, rewarding and fun. Many entrepreneurs don't realize the business they are actually in. Restaurant owners think they're in the food business. They're actually in the dining experience business. Codeup, a coding bootcamp I helped start, isn't in the education business. We're in…

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Experienced Teams and Market Research

A founder posted a question in a startup chat group recently: My cofounders and I are all intimately familiar with our industry. Do we need to do market research? I firmly believe you should. In particular, the best research to do is direct research. Since customers are going to buy your product or service, don't you want to talk to them before building anything? Wouldn't you rather spend a few weeks asking questions of potential customers before you devote five years of your life to a new business? I certainly…

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If You're Not the Next Uber

I get pitched three types of companies: Non-starters. The founders have made some wrong assumption about the way the world works. These ideas just won't work for some technical, market or team reason. Venture Capital Investable are the second and the rarest type. They are the ones with the potential to be huge someday. They don’t have scalability issues and have all the hallmarks of things that VCs look for. Perhaps one-half of one percent of all new businesses are in this category. Nice Businesses. This category is where…

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The Startup Idea "Death Zone"

I spent a pleasant half-hour with a young man working on a food truck finder app last week. He'd coded it himself and done his best to hustle some customers and users. Sadly, after six months, he'd developed little traction. This man's idea (and many others that first-time founders dream up) exists in a "Death Zone" for businesses: The vertical axis is the relative value of the product or service you want to sell. On a scale of safety pin to a cure for cancer, how much value does the…

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In Defense of Being Prolific

This morning, I came across a songbook of the compositions of the Beatles over a two-year period in the 1960s. Flipping through the pages, I was surprised to see two things. First, they wrote tons of songs. Second, I was amazed at how many mediocre songs Lennon and McCartney actually wrote over that time. Here was the most celebrated songwriting team of the twentieth century and they had a success rate of 5% or so. What? I think many of us expect our success rate to be high or we're…

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