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It’s rare that you see a talk that resonates so deeply and makes complete, fundamental sense. You have the realisation that experience, genius and truth is in the same room as you and you are having those “aha” moments every minute — and it’s exhilarating.
Bill Gross is an entrepreneurial genius. He runs a company called Idealab, started in 1996. He founded the company to create and build successful businesses that capitalise on innovations in areas with growth opportunities. Naturally the internet is a key focus for the company.
Idealab has been busy: It has started about 100 companies, had more than 300 rounds of financing and invested as much as US$870m. It’s had many IPOs and about 40 failures. Gross has literally seen everything, and done everything in this entrepreneurial space.
At LeWeb he shared 12 lessons, 12 absolutely insightful lessons, for entrepreneurs. (The twelfth one is the best).
1. Market power rules: You are subject to market forces. This is your context. If you want to be successful, look for markets that are taking off. Tap markets already taking off and it will be “like running a race with wind at your back”. Did anyone say “emerging markets”?
2. Master the demo: If you can’t demo your idea, you can’t sell it. Practice what you preach, and excel at what you sell. Learning how to sell, to pitch, to explain, and to demonstrate your idea or future business is key.
3. Pursue your passion: Work at something you absolutely love. Every business will face challenges and tough times that you will only overcome if you have deep passion for what you do.
4. Focus, Focus, Focus: Focus is always better, even if you pick the wrong focus. Do a few things extraordinarily well than spread yourself thinly and do an average job at many things.
5. Recognise your strengths, then design a structure around them and balance that by hiring complementary skills. You, the entrepreneur need help. Find those people that will help you.
6. Don’t overbuild: The world can change very fast. It’s better to grow slowly than go out of business because world has changed. Make sure the market is ready for your innovation. This is particularly pertinent to the mobile app and web ecosystem, that changes by the month.
7. Survive until the market is ready: If you have a great offering but the market isn’t ready for you that’s ok, but you need to cut your cash burn to survive until market is there for your business.
8. Test, test, test: Find a way to test your core proposition with your most loyal customer base before going really big. They will let you know what is working and what is not and it will allow you to adjust your proposition.
9. Stick with it: When you have a great idea, stick with it despite what the critics say. This, according to Gross, is one of the most powerful entrepreneurial lessons.
10. Find essential partners: If you have a world-changing idea with huge capital requirements or you need a specific network in other countries, you need to find the right partners onboard to help you. Don’t be selfish about this. Do you want to own a big chunk of something small or a small chunk of something big. I’m for the latter.
11. You have to harness your users’ passion: In the new social, world you need to get your core, most loyal users to promote your venture to their networks. That’s how you will grow virally and grow large.
12. All truth passes through three stages: In the first stage it’s ridiculed, in the second it’s violently opposed, and in the third stage it’s accepted as self-evident. (A quote from German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.