Jodie Wu

Global Cycle Solutions

This conversation is closed.

What advice can we offer to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Diving in and starting your idea or company is one of the most daring things you can ever do. The future is unknown, so this question is for those aspiring entrepreneurs...after you dive in, how do you swim? What advice can we offer to aspiring entrepreneurs?

To make this efficient and effective and get the most ideas, answers in 1-3 short sentences in the following form would be great.

1) Before doing anything, immerse yourself in the environment of your customers/clients. Learn the language and the culture. Understand their lives.
2) Do your research. Do pilots so that you can start to set the foundations for your organization. Take those baby steps not based on assumptions, but on real life.
3) ...
4) ...
5) more to come in our Live Conversation!

This Live Conversation will open on January 12, 2012 at 12PM EST / 9AM PST

Closing Statement from Jodie Wu

I think we all echoed the same sentiment.
1) Know your passion, and when the going gets rough, have whatever it is on your wall to keep reminding you why you do what you do.
2) Seek out resources. Don't go it alone. Yes, you'll feel alone being that sole person with that crazy idea that will sacrifice anything to make it a reality, but don't feel afraid to ask questions. There's tons of resources out there.
3) Build a great team around you, so together you can build a strong foundation for your company or organization. Yes, it might be only you at first, but grow slowly and build a strong, core team.
4) Be patient. It's going to be hard. Things are not going to work, and you're going to have to innovate. But when you get things working, get your word out there. Grow your team. Spread the word about your organization through social media and the like. Inspire others to follow in your mission!
5) Jumping in and doing it can be scary, but what's the worst thing that can happen? When you start following your passion, believe it or not, there's many people who'd be jealous that you're doing what you're doing, and you'll be changing the world. Just do it! And if you fail, who cares? You've paved the way for the next generation to stand on the shoulders of giants...your shoulders!

Thanks so much for everyone's contribution, and I hope to continue this conversation! I had a ton of fun!

  • Jan 12 2012: Don't go it alone. Seek out mentors, startup founders, and supporters in your community to help you navigate the madness!
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      Jan 12 2012: Yes indeed! And if you're young like I was and you're still in school, take advantage of all the entrepreneur networking activities! And don't be afraid to reach out to other founders, as no matter how "big" they seem, they were entrepreneurs at one time or another.
  • Jan 12 2012: Networking is everything. Universities are the best place to do it. I'm pretending to be a student while I stretch every last ounce of their start-up capacities. Professional coaching + motivated students = optimal opportunity.
    • Jan 12 2012: wow, networking is one skill that can not be overemphasied! an entreprenuer can not do without-always needing a particular ling to break out somwheere somehow.
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    Jan 12 2012: Keep connecting to the why. WHY are you doing this? WHY do you want to? WHY bother? Sometimes when we pull up our sleeves and get lost in our methods, we lose the "why". Write it down. Put it up on the wall. Make it your password. Look at it often. Revise it if you need to. It is this WHY that will keep you going when the going gets tough.
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      Jan 12 2012: And the WHY is the one thing that will stay consistent as your business changes due to external factors. So, keep that one close to your heart.
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    Jan 12 2012: I would add, don't be afraid to innovate and experiment due to lack of resources. The defining characteristic of an entrepreneur is just that - being able to innovate despite the lack of resources. This is why corporations have difficulties fostering an entrepreneurial spirit - because innovation is driven by uncertainty. Keep outsmarting the competition regardless of your current financial situation. Also, try to keep your "stash" of cash on the low for the same exact reason. If you want to stay agile, you need not rely on backups to keep you away from failure but rather embrase failure as just another step along the way. This, I think, is where true entrepreneurship lies.
  • Jan 12 2012: Be very, very wary of advice from non-entrepreneurs. Everyone and their brother will chime-in with advice, mostly because they don't have to go do it. Find other --real-- entrepreneurs and talk to them. (1099 employees with one client don't count either.)
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      Jan 12 2012: And those entrepreneurs will definitely have a ton of stories of the ups and downs! And most of all, they'll be ready to help. You just need to jump in first!
  • Jan 12 2012: How do guide a smart high school kid who wants to be an entrepreneurs and finds formal education as hindrance but doesn't mind learning through other means?
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      Jan 12 2012: If their high school experience is anything like mine was, mostly obsolete and redundant, let them learn through other means. I quit high school. I now help people resolve physical pathologies after their doctors and therapists were unable to help... Formal education needs a serious overhaul. Home schooling is alive and well, and high school and college dropouts who are self-made multi-millionares. In this era, the possibilities are endless if you are motivated, passionate and resourceful.
  • Jan 12 2012: Hello,I just wrote a blog post about it on http://alexvdm.com

    Here is the summary:
    1.Focus. Launching multiple products is possible as a start up, but tough. The costs of developments have gone down over the last years, but the management time is still finite.
    2.Take a ‘service’ mindset from the start. You’re not there to ship stuff, but to delight your clients. How can you help them perform better? If that means you have to move out of your ‘strategy’ for a while, that’s not an issue
    3.Be broad & serious on financing: financing is critical, and it took us A LOT of time. But it’s not only about funds or business angels. Subsidies are really important too and their costs can sometimes be: zero.
    4. It takes more time & frustrations, be ware. Customers will cancel projects before they start. People will not return your calls (never, or almost never). They will take months, even years to decide. Approach a broad set of prospects and focus on those for which you get traction, but never completely abandon the others (if they have potential). One day, they will come.
    5. Move fast. It’s critical to move with a sense of urgency on everything, because your time is counted.
    6. Strike a balance between sheer optimism and wishful thinking. Entrepreneurs are optimist by nature, and they should be in order to convince prospects, employees, shareholders, and all other stakeholders about their vision & products. But sometimes that optimism becomes a biased view that, because you wish it, it’s going to happen… It may fool people for some time, but the biggest fool is the entrepreneur himself.
    7. Get organized. Entrepreneurship is about multi-tasking to the extreme. Managing a various of stakeholders, plus a product, pipeline & the rest is daunting, even with great partners & staff. For instance, we used a professional CRM tool (Salesforce) from the first month. If you wait, it means you’ll have to think how to ‘transition’ later, and will postpone the project.
  • Jan 12 2012: Excessive planning or talking about the future or past keeps one from doing. How does one swim after diving in? Hopefully with pace and not further than one can swim back to the shore. Start from where you are at, now.
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      Jan 12 2012: indeed. And in all honesty, it will almost NEVER be like you planned! So, just do it!
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    Jan 12 2012: Once you get started, find a way to differentiate your products/service. The more you can stand out from the competition, the more you'll be remembered.
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      Jan 12 2012: And the better you are at it than your competition, the better!
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        Jan 12 2012: I think everyone needs to start with a great idea then figure out the best way to get that idea across. The ideas that spread are the ones that win.
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          Jan 12 2012: And the ideas that spread are the ones with great marketing. After HR, this is the most important aspect...marketing and creating a movement!
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    Jan 12 2012: greetings from Jamaica! Loving this idea... I'd say after you dive in, keep reminding yourself (daily) of your company goals and objectives as well as your personal goals for success so that you keep focused and DRIVEN!!!!
    • Jan 12 2012: Very good point! I'm bootstrapping my company all alone and have printed up some banners for the workshop. They're nice and bright and help draw me back in when I get distracted. Having to work a day job makes it very easy to get pulled away for too long.
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        Jan 12 2012: Speaking of being alone, to most founders and co-founders, be ready to be strong to go it alone. Not everyone will have your passion. Not everyone will sacrifice as much as you do. But know that in doing what you do, you are making a difference!
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      Jan 12 2012: definitely! One of the biggest things that helps in keeping focused is knowing what your metric is. What's that earth shattering thing you're trying to do? And every day, you take those baby steps!
  • Jan 12 2012: From your perspective what do you think of having an in sourced call centre for a non profit service oriented organization like hospital ? Or how easily could hospital be made as corporate ?
  • Jan 12 2012: I have a question, what promotional and strategic tools can we use to make people buy low involvement goods(daily use goods like grocery and snacks) online?
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    Jan 12 2012: Thanks Jodie for an amazing conversation.. ALL THE BEST!
  • Jan 12 2012: take a cue from leaders in that industry you have dived in so that you can follow and infact surpass thier benchmark and also avoid their pitfalls.
  • Jan 12 2012: How to face a failure of a product which has been believed would be fitting into the gap of niche market ? Does it make sense keep on investing in the same product by modifying the processes and strategy ? Do I need to take a risk of changing my focus to an entirely new product and market ?
    • Jan 12 2012: Yes and no. I have definitely seen situations where CEOs get so set on an idea that they refuse to budge from that course, to the detriment of the company. Is there a way to get some perspective, to see if it's still something that the market is asking for? And what is your own gut feeling; don't ignore it.
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      Jan 12 2012: Focus on what's working and what's not working on your current product. It could be a marketing problem where people just don't know about it. Or, it could be one little thing you need to change. Get as much user feedback as possible before doing anything else!
  • Jan 12 2012: Try to see yourself getting to revenue without investors (other than mom/dad/uncle/etc). Chasing 'investors' takes forever and takes you away from thinking about product dev't and customers.
  • Jan 12 2012: Can you still make a good name and money in a services oriented start-up and not a product oriented? I have no idea what direction I'll adopt in the future but for now I want to start-up as a service provider in the software industry. What do you suggest?
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    Jan 12 2012: Thanks, I have a several resources at a great university in my area, and we are planning to meet in a couple of weeks.
  • Jan 12 2012: What are some common mistakes future entrepreneur's should seek to avoid?
    • Jan 12 2012: thinking that they no longer need mentors who will guide and instruct them on the appropraite links to use .
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      Jan 12 2012: Assuming that they know everything, and their model is the only one that works. Go in and learn first. Then figure things out.
  • Jan 12 2012: Best definition of an Entrepreneur i have come across:
    Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.
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    Jan 12 2012: One Issue I do have is knowing when to move on from one strategy to another... for example, I've been trying to get funding for my startup for a while now by trying to attract advertising pledges from corporate companies but no bites so far...not sure if I should keep trying or try something else...Does anyone know where I can find a discussion on various funding methods for startups?
  • Jan 12 2012: I''m a product designer running a small design consultancy start-up. I have a desire to eventually sell products that I most likely create.

    Can you touch on the tangible product industry as an entrepreneur?

    What advice can you give to me as I move from design to business? Specifically towards making that leap.

    Thanks!
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      Jan 12 2012: Of course you can jump into the tangible product industry! It's one of the hardest things because once you do have the design, you have to think about manufacturing, quality control, distribution, and even pricing!

      It's tough, and it depends on your markets. Kickstarter definitely is a good way to launch your designs towards production.

      If you're already in consultancy, talk to the people that you consult and get their advice on the product industry. They probably know where you can find OEMs in the like.

      For sure, you're going to have to think about the scale you hope to achieve (will your own small workshop be sufficient or do you need to go to the big guys abroad?)
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    Jan 12 2012: How to mobilise and keep skilled labourers, hire great managers and build network.
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      Jan 12 2012: As the saying goes, build a cathedral. Gather a following, inspire, and then mobilize to build something that lasts a lifetime. For sure, your first hires are some of the most important. Don't be afraid to interview well over 100 people just to find the perfect person.
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    Jan 12 2012: What's the best approach to get college students and organizations involved into your project?
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      Jan 12 2012: Every company does this differently and it depends on what you're looking for. For long-term commitments, creating a club that supports your organization's mission is good.

      But if you're just looking for skilled people, talk to department heads. Find a way for these college students to get funding to come join you.
    • Jan 12 2012: Find professors who are working in the field related to your project and partner with them.
  • Jan 12 2012: What is the best way to determine if one should run as profit or non-profit? I want to transition from high school teacher to establishing a retreat center that also offers opportunities for finding common ground in the worlds of Art and Science....kind of like a coffeehouse / arts installation gallery / theater / lecture series. Not too big....no more than 80-100 audience at a time. Want to keep it small but effective. I'm all ears.
    • Jan 12 2012: Wow - what an amazing and ambitious idea! What kind of location were you thinking - rural retreat, or in the heart of the city? (Just trying to get the picture in my head.)

      One advantage of the non-profit route is that there are - at least here in Canada - many government supported grants that would not be available to you going the other way. It may also make people feel more comfortable seeing that you are doing something without a 'profit motive'. On the other hand - if it really does go over gangbusters, it would be nice to benefit... ;)
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      Jan 12 2012: For-profit vs. non-profit is just a tax status. I think if you're in education, stick to non-profit and find revenue-generating models that allows your model to be sustainable beyond donations. Plus, if you're non-profit, I'm sure there's lots of people who'd love to give to keep your organization alive. You just have to continue to inspire.
      • Jan 12 2012: Thank you...it's been in the envisioning stage for some time. A chance to "pay back" what's been given. I am hoping to locate in the area of Asheville, North Carolina. Definitely rural--want to find a place that is mature forest; streams / waterfall....hoping to finance the land / property purchase with my retirement package. Put it on the line. Too often I have seen groups be overly ambitious with purchases and then are saddled with a mortgage when business sags.
  • Jan 12 2012: 1. Ask yourself "Why am i doing it?". Ask yourself everyday, afresh, after waking up in the morning. The answers may vary as the time goes by but each variation would be important and a defining factor for your success.
  • Jan 12 2012: How do I know if a business is the right way to make the difference I think will make a difference to the area I want to explore? I want to transform care homes (residential) using creativity. Im confused about business models and have potential investors but an I am from a creative background then I am not used to think of this way of doing things. I am tempted to just get some well paid freelance work in order to do the things I want to do on the side...
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      Jan 12 2012: I'd say let it grow organically. Start it on the side, and then when it starts taking off, then you turn it into a business. I started GCS with intentions of going back to grad school after 6 months, but then an investor came in, and I was like, I'm not doing this halfway...I'm all in! I bet you'll hit a transition point like this when the time is right.
  • Jan 12 2012: Passionate to do the task you are taking. Don't give up easily and always find back your first goal/objective, why you want to be an entrepreneur.
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    Jan 12 2012: I'm trying to start a company by using the crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter.com. If I raise what I have set as my goal at 10K, I will be able to buy the tools that I need to get my business up and running.

    What advice can you give in light of this new era of crowd-sourcing?
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bengould/lifecycle-bracelets
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    Jan 12 2012: Focus on your core competence. Value add and differentiate your product offering.
  • Jan 12 2012: Thanks for doing this! I think there needs to be much much more entrepreneurship education out there... If we cannot count on corporate america to create enough jobs for all of us, we need to create them ourselves as entrepreneurs.
    -I believe support structure is a huge key to success, building a team that is performance driven and trustworthy.
  • Jan 12 2012: My question: How do you pull yourself out of a conventional job - which is secure and paying the bills - and find the courage to strike out on your own? ...I know what I want to do, I have passion, I've written a business plan, I've gotten some education so I have ideas of how to get there. But the idea of actually cutting the cord is terrifying.
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      Jan 12 2012: It's actually the most adventurous thing you'll ever do. I think what makes it terrifying is the fear of making mistakes. There's no mistakes, just mountains of things to learn! What do you think makes it so terrifying? Is it the fear of losing stability?
      • Jan 12 2012: Thanks so much for replying. Aside from the money (which is a factor) - I guess it's fear of starting over, of having to remake myself, of losing the status I have been working so long to gain. And of failing in my chosen profession; of having to come crawling back...
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          Jan 12 2012: You're not going to remake yourself. Your just metamorphosing. Just follow your heart and your passion, and I think you'll find happiness.
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      Jan 12 2012: I find that when you step out on your own, there's a certain instinctive survival drive that kicks in.. you KNOW you can't afford to mess around now...so you wont... your body and mind know there's more at stake so you grow wings and surpass even your own expectations. Don't let fear stop you.
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      Jan 12 2012: Hannah, it isn't so scary. I left a good job in San Francisco two years ago and never looked back. People thought I was crazy, but its been one of the best experiences of my life. You have to be ready to do it and the faith that everything will turn out well. Once you leave your job, new doors will open and possibilities will become apparent - but only after you leave your job.

      Really sit down and think 'what the worse that can happen here'? You'll have to live with your parents for a few months again? You'll have to find another job? Sometimes what we fear isn't really so bad at all...
      • Jan 12 2012: Good to remember, Robin. It's easy to start looking at it like a black hole with no end in site. You're right; it's important to remember there are always options.

        ...I think it's tough, though, as you get older - because there seem to be fewer. The money doesn't just support me now; it has to support my family. My parents have both passed away, so that safety net is gone. I keep thinking, had I set out to do this at 24, everyone would have cheered me on. Right now, they just look at me cross-eyed and say, "Are you sure you want to do that?"
    • Jan 12 2012: Can your current employer become your first customer? If so, then you kinda have both -- income and entrepreneurship
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      Jan 12 2012: I did it 6 years ago and have never looked back, but that doesn't mean I don't have my challenges. GO FOR IT!!
  • Jan 12 2012: Innovate. Believe. Lead.
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      Jan 12 2012: And be patient! A start-up is not easy, but with persistence, you'll get there.
  • Jan 12 2012: How far along on the development path can I be before I start turning investors off? Or will this even happen? I've heard that investors like for you to come to them with more than vaporware, but what if I've got something that is already shipping ... say, as a result of Kickstarter or something? Is this something to worry about; that I'll dilute their interest too much if my product is too refined when I ask for funding?
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      Jan 12 2012: Investors always want to invest in the thing that'll make them money! Or meet their bottom line, whether its financial, social, or green! And I doubt your product could ever be too refined. Any company just has to keep on innovating! Look at computers, cars, and phones! Everyday, it's upgrade after upgrade.
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    Jan 12 2012: Bootstrap at first, but be ready to hire where you don't have the skills! HR is the most important aspect of any start-up!
    • Jan 12 2012: Elance is great for this if you're bootstrapping.
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        Jan 12 2012: Thanks for sharing that. It's probably something I should try out in the future!
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    Jan 12 2012: Greetings.. I'd say keep your eyes and ears tuned, and for starters..go out and learn, by supporting organizations that have a similar business model.
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      Jan 12 2012: And if you can partner rather than starting your own business, it's all the better. There's no reason to be redundant. Create synergies where possible!