10 Lessons from an Early Stage Entrepreneur

From my Entrepreneurship talk at Mercer University Business Pitch Competition

I want to put some things on the table first....
Everything we need to know about business can be learned inside of the four walls of the classroom. It takes real-world experience. Everything is practical, not so much theoretical. It's about real behaviors in the world. Think of your professors as your coaches. As an entrepreneur, you are the one that has the talent and the skills to actually put into practice what you have been taught. But that requires you to get out of the building :)

  1. There is no overnight success - the difference between success and failure is commitment and discipline
  2. Branding is everything - protect your company brand and intellectual property
  3. Know your key metrics that drive the business - one that drives everything and 3-4 that are supporting metrics
  4. You need a team, but don't give all your equity out in the beginning. Divide and conquer amongst everyone's strengths and weaknesses, vest your equity for five years
  5. Know your market and customer inside-out - practice customer discovery in the beginning, put yourself out there.
  6. Bootstrap for as long as possible - don't raise money until you are certain of your value proposition, target customer and achieve product-market fit (confirmed by revenue generation); don't hire until you have recurring revenue then you have some idea of what you're doing; figure out what resources/skillsets you need and hire based on that
  7. Get free marketing - TV, magazines, blogs, etc. (earned media)
  8. You must have passion! It's the fuel for your engine, the reason you get out of bed every morning
  9. Fail fast - figure out what doesn't work as soon as possible, don't be adverse to change
  10. Be confident in yourself and your abilities. Being an entrepreneur is a faith building exercise.