posted on December 12, 2006 11:18
Well, we’ll find out soon enough. I am a co-founder of iBelong Networks, which has developed and supports the social networking platform that hosts the Amplifier Network. When Jonathan asked me to blog as a part of the entrepreneur section of Amplifier Network, I was very excited – not because I feel I have so much to share, but because I feel I have so much to learn. As this is my second startup, I consider this a masters degree program in entrepreneurship – and this forum will afford me the opportunity to sit down with some of the region’s most successful entrepreneurs, discuss lessons from their experiences, and determine how these lessons apply to my day-to-day hurdles in starting and running a technology business.
Over the course of the next few months, I will explore the topics that are top-of-mind to me and other entrepreneurs in starting, growing, and running a technology business. These topics include:
• Choosing the right business partner: This likely is one of the most important decisions an entrepreneur will make. Starting a new business has many ups, and many, many downs. And going through this experience with the right partner helps in making the right decisions, putting things in perspective, and providing motivation. In this blog, I will talk to established entrepreneurs to learn their process of choosing their business partners and the results – both the good and bad.
• Hiring top performers: As a small, rapidly growing business, sometimes it seems like we can’t hire fast enough. But it is my feeling that making the wrong hire is an even worse fate. In tight job markets, such as the Washington, DC area, hiring the right people can seem nearly impossible. I’ll be asking top entrepreneurs in the region to discuss their processes for hiring and retaining top talent. I’ll also ask them to share the repercussions they experienced when making the wrong hires.
• Optimizing the alignment of the sales and product development cycles: In a start-up, product-oriented company, it is critical to foster innovation and develop products that meet clients’ demands. And although much has changed between Web 1.0 and 2.0, particularly the dramatic decline in the cost of taking a product to market, most start-ups still invest heavily in their first round of product development prior to actually getting their first customers. But there are many paths to product development. By aligning the product development and sales cycles start-ups keep the need for funding down – you’re building what the client is willing to pay for. Of course, not all successful companies have taken this route to profitability, but I will be talking to other entrepreneurs about how they have managed this process and their point of view on taking product to market.
• Bootstrapping versus outside seed capital: Bootstrapping a start-up has many advantages and several disadvantages. The key advantages include encouraging the founders to develop a business model that includes revenue early in the life of the company; keeping the company focused on meeting immediate client demands; minimizing frivolous spending; and increasing valuations before seeking outside capital. The disadvantages include potentially starving the company; angering current customers due to inadequately-funded customer service; or taking too long to get product to market and losing market opportunity. Although there is no one right answer in choosing a funding path, I would like to learn from other entrepreneurs who have tackled the question of how to fund their start-ups and the ongoing costs.
• Finding the right funding partners: If you have decided to take outside capital, it is important to find the right funding partner. These days, the options include friends and family funding, organized angel groups and seed capital funds (such as Amplifier Ventures), and venture capital funds. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of funding partner. Layered upon this are the unique characteristics of the specific funding partner. I will be exploring the stories and lessons from other entrepreneurs in how to choose the right funding path.
If you have any additional topics that we should explore or if you have experiences you would like to share I would like to hear from you. I’m looking forward to launching a great conversation with you over the next few months.