What it Takes to Make it as an Entrepreneur

What it Takes to Make it as an Entrepreneur

By Vivek Wadhwa Updated: April 28 A young male who was born to be an entrepreneur drops out from a computer-science program at a prestigious university.  He meets a powerful venture capitalist who is so enamored with his idea that he gives him millions of dollars to build his technology.  Then comes the multi-billion-dollar IPO. That’s the Hollywood version of Silicon Valley.  But it is as far from reality as is Disneyland.  Entrepreneurship is never that easy and the stereotype of the startup founder is not representative of the technology world.  Yes, there are a few, such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, who made it big.  But they are the outliers—and they too don’t fit the stereotype. Here are six myths about what it actually takes to make it: 1. Entrepreneurs are a product of nature. A common belief is that entrepreneurs are born and cannot be made.  Venture capitalist Fred Wilson once said that he was shocked when a professor told him you could teach people to be entrepreneurs.  He explained, “I’ve been working with entrepreneurs for almost 25 years now and it is ingrained in my mind that someone is either born an entrepreneur or is not.”  Venture capitalist Mark Suster, with whom I once had a fierce debate on this topic, maintained the same. They’re wrong.  My research team found that, of the 549 successful entrepreneurs that we surveyed in 2009, 52 percent were the first in their immediate families to start a business; about 39 percent had an entrepreneurial father and 7 percent had an entrepreneurial mother.  (Some had both.)  Only a quarter of the sample had caught the...
Top 10 Social Networks for Entrepreneurs

Top 10 Social Networks for Entrepreneurs

Looking for a job? Consider creating your own. There are a number of social resources to help you connect with other entrepreneurs and get your business ideas off the ground. Here are the top 10 social networks for entrepreneurs. Each helps entrepreneurs succeed by providing them with the guidance, tools and resources they need to setup their company and gain exposure. Have another social site to add to this list? Tell us about it in the comments. 1. Entrepreneur Connect Entrepreneur Media, the company that produces Entrepreneur Magazine, started a social network over a year ago specifically for entrepreneurs and small business owners called Entrepreneur Connect.   Like all social networks, you have the opportunity to create your own profile, explore the community, share ideas with other entrepreneurs and network. Unlike most social networks, this one frowns upon too much self-promotion and applauds idea sharing. You can use this network to connect to service providers, suppliers, advisers and colleagues.  Just like LinkedIn and Facebook, there are professional groups that you can join or create.  Another cool feature is that you’re able to start your own blog and possibly have it appear on the main page.  This is similar to what Fast Company has done with their website. 2. PartnerUp PartnerUp is a social network for entrepreneurs who are searching for people and resources for business opportunities.  Anyone can join, but business partners, co-founders, executives and board members will get the most out of this one.  In this network, you can ask or offer advice, find commercial real estate and find service providers like accountants and marketers for your business. The big differentiator with this social...
We Must Rethink How to Build Relationships

We Must Rethink How to Build Relationships

The digitization of relationships has fundamentally changed what it means to build a network in the 21st century. Thriving in this era of confusingly rapid change and information overwhelm means embracing network literacy ; the critical, counterintuitive skill set that helps individuals and businesses systematically build their networks. When I emailed Scott Belsky, founder of Behance and creator of the 99u conference, to request an interview, he turned down the request with the following email: I am actually quite the introvert and not sure that relationship building is my strength. I don’t do many lunches or meetings, I dislike networking events, but what I do focus on is adding value to the projects of people I know, which has always yielded unexpected collaborations and benefits. [shared with permission] I read the email with surprise. How could a convener of the world’s top creative leaders not consider himself a networker? Toward A New Paradigm of Relationship Building This is the question that remained in the back of my mind as I interviewed dozens of the country’s top relationship builders and researchers over the last year. Then, I noticed a pattern. Many interviewees were hesitant to be interviewed at first. However, as I got to know them, I noticed that they had traits not typically associate with a ‘networker’. What I’ve realized along the journey is that Scott’s response is not an outlier to be ignored. It is a signal to be paid attention to. It is the signal for the beginning of a new era of relationship building with new rules. Relationship building isn’t just another type of networking. In many ways, it represents the...
The Best Organizations For Entrepreneurs

The Best Organizations For Entrepreneurs

Relationships matter. They provide us social context, allow us to transfer trust, and create opportunity. Relationships also, not surprisingly, fuel more relationships. But how do you start building your network? The short answer is through organizations. Besides a curated network of relationships, organizations also provide excellent opportunities to give back, mentor others, and find resources to help businesses succeed. As an entrepreneur, here are the organizations you need to know about: Entrepreneurs’ Organization EO is basically the Justice League of the entrepreneurial world. This group has it all – not only do they offer forums and personal advice on a national scale, the organization also sponsors local chapters with their own meetings and amenities. There are even great healthcare options for members. On top of that, there are personal mentorship opportunities and huge networking events. It’s the ultimate toolbox for entrepreneurs. Young Entrepreneur Council The YEC is an invite-only organization, and its services are top-notch. Through the YEC, a business can make its mark on the map with PR opportunities. The organization prides itself in “concierge-like service.” Members of the YEC can connect with the right people to help with their startup challenges; they also receive discounts on valuable services for their businesses. The YEC recently released a project called #StartupLab, designed to help young entrepreneurs achieve their goals. Young Presidents’ Organization YPO brands itself as “the world’s most powerful network” and “the best peer network in the world.” It offers forums for bouncing ideas off industry experts, and this organization allows for a truly global reach through its web of connections; it focuses on expanding members’ sphere of influence...
Are Business Plans Still Necessary?

Are Business Plans Still Necessary?

This is part of my ongoing series of posts and I need to file this one under both Raising Venture Capital and Startup Advice. I remember going to an Under the Radar conference in 2006 in the heat of the Web 2.0 craze.  There were tons of young entrepreneurs showing their latest Web 2.0 wares.  Ajax was the new buzzword and many companies went overboard.  People mistook extra doses of Ajax for a successful product. Unfortunately this was reinforced by the many conferences that rushed to espouse the benefits of Web 2.0 and the subsequent acquisition sprees of companies like Google, Yahoo!, Cisco and others went out to fill out their Web 2.0 portfolios.  Many of these businesses were what First Round Capital called FNACs (features, not companies – this acronym has always stuck with me). The last 12 months has seen the rise of many new trends.  Facebook Apps, iPhone Apps, Social Games and now The Real-time Web (finally a new, sexier buzzword to replace Web 2.0.  RIP 2.0.  Sorry Tim O’Reilly – you’ll have to work at coining the next trend. ) The last couple of years has also seen the huge initial success of Ycombinator, the Lean Startup and many other product driven approaches to going to market. Broadly speaking this last trend has been healthy as it has brought an increase focus on launching products that you can test with the market and on capital efficiency.  It has also brought about my favorite new term – Ramen Profitable.  Someone remind me to do a future post on why I think the Ramen Profitable approach has actually hurt some businesses. In...