TIPS FROM SERIAL ENTREPRENEURS FOR FIRST TIME STARTUP FOUNDERS: Learn from others avoid their stumbles
Today I'll share with you some excellent questions I received recently from a very bright and budding entrepreneur.
They address issues central to the plans of first time entrepreneurs. My responses are based on the experiences of serial entrepreneurs and venture investors I've worked with.
The timing of he questions is just right, as I have just finished my annual checkin with angels and venture partners who focus on early stage financings of startups.
Read, ponder and act. Get started on the right foot.
- Will this make getting VC funding much harder? I've read that this is a red flag for many VC's.
- How important are co-founders from a funding perspective?
- Is it practical to attract the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc person after seeded?
VETERAN: Solo founders with experience usually get funded without a core team - yet most have formed the handful that constitute a fine group to start the new enterprise. First timers should take time to form a core team, avoid grabbing strangers to fill out the group. Spend the time to get to know people well before you need them. Yes, that will slow you down, but without it you'll be at a great disadvantage.
- I'm under the impression that software based start-ups should have everything working before soliciting.
- Is a simple prototype sufficient? Or do you believe it's worth finishing most of the product? (It would take me much longer to do so.. especially without a co-founder)
VETERAN: Experienced and respected serial entrepreneurs do not need a working product, though that will help negotiate more favorable terms for the founding core team. First timers should strive for at least proof of concept. But remember that if you have the next idea for an Uber-class startup, you may be funded without a working example -- if your potential venture investors think boldly enough.
Attracting a Co-Founder
- I'm always looking for people better than me... not worse.
- I don't mind having co-founders from the get go... I just want to make sure they're really good.
- I'm looking for a technical co-founder and it seems to me the best ones are happily employed and compensated and the not so great ones are the ones available.
- Do you have any recommendations on attracting the best? Know of any great folks that might be interested?
VETERAN: Avoid strangers. And relatives. Invest time to get to know others. Qualify them over lunch and talks discussing what great ideas need to be started. When you mutually agree on an idea, it will be a mutual one that all of you will shape and transform. There is no shortage of either great people or early stage money. But there is a shortage of great ideas worth investing your time or money in. Find people and investors at entrepreneurial events in your area. Alumni meetings are excellent as well. Every city has some organized events, as do schools in your area. And contact founders of existing startups. Visit, chat, find. It works.
- When the time is right, would you be able to refer me to some good venture investors in my city who specialize in seed stage funding?
VETERAN: First plan your campaign to raise capital. It is a campaign.That means lots of time and effort. Treat it as seriously and thoroughly as the launch of your first product. Research angels and investors, find people who know your market and industry. Look where they have invested. After that, then feel free to seek introductions from people you know.
BOTTOM LINE: Apply the wisdom of experienced entrepreneurs and you'll get ahead, start off on the right foot. Remember that it is not hard to get started, but it is very hard to succeed. Avoiding the painful lessons of prior founders will help you a lot. That will become part of your unfair advantage. That will attract angels and VCs to you.