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Openness Can be a Competitive Advantage

December 30, 2011 by Marty Zwilling

startup secrecy

With the tenth anniversary of 9/11 behind us, and the ongoing financial woes, there seems to be a growing population out there worried about all the people and companies watching to hurt them. Why is everyone so paranoid these days? My plea to entrepreneurs is to recognize it as an opportunity, and go the extra mile to make people’s life better rather than stoke the fires. I must be the only one who believes that most of the “watching” in the real world, and on the Internet, is done by businesses to [Read More]

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Skip the Excuses When Your Startup is Struggling

December 29, 2011 by Marty Zwilling

business failure crashing chart

When I heard a friend make the statement “Your startup can’t fail if you don’t quit,” I realized that every entrepreneur should adopt it as their mantra. Pivoting or dealing a new hand is not quitting. If we all take this mantra, we can drastically improve the statistic that over half of new startups fail within five years. Nothing is more discouraging to future entrepreneurs than a failed startup. Why do most startups fail? There are a thousand reasons listed by pundits across the media, but most of them agree [Read More]

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Prepare for Battle Before You Seek an Army of Investors

December 28, 2011 by Marty Zwilling

seeking capital is a battle

Don’t charge the hill until you are “ready.” This probably seems obvious to military types, but I see entrepreneurs violating this rule all the time. They approach key potential investors way too early, trying to talk their way up the hill, with no supporting business plan, and before they have a support team around them. Needless to say, they usually get shot down, and get no second chance. The first rule is to separate your advisers from your investors. Perhaps a close personal friend can be both (the earliest stage [Read More]

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Practical Steps to Get Your Startup to the Next Level

December 27, 2011 by Marty Zwilling

get your startup to the next level

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. On the average, the entrepreneurs I know are struggling. But one thing they all seem to have in common is a love for learning and change. They rush in with a passion to better the world, and money is just an indication of their progress. The successful ones then invest their time and money in furthering their knowledge base. I’m not talking about academic classes, because at best these only [Read More]

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Master the 8 Basic Startup Processes or Fail

December 26, 2011 by Marty Zwilling

Learn the Basic Startup Processes

Even when your startup is a one-man show, you will soon find that you are “out of control,” unless you start organizing and writing down how and when key things need to get done. Like it or not, you are now entering the dreaded realm of “formal business processes.” The right question is “What is the minimum that I need?” The simple answer is that you need to implement one process at a time, starting with those things that are most critical to your business, until you feel a relief [Read More]

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Do You Have the Personality to be an Entrepreneur?

December 23, 2011 by Marty Zwilling

Do You Have the Personality to be an Entrepreneur

A while back, when a startup founder mentioned to me that he wasn’t sure he had the personality to be an entrepreneur, I realized how important that insight was. My first thought is that if you are more annoyed than energized by expert advice, team suggestions, and customer input, then you should probably avoid this line of work. Actually, it’s more complicated than that, but that’s a good start. After working with entrepreneurs for almost a decade now, I have developed a good “radar” to quickly recognize mentalities that will [Read More]

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8 Questions to Ask Before Joining a Startup

December 22, 2011 by Marty Zwilling

8 Questions to Ask Before Joining a Startup

If you really want to impress a startup founder as a potential employee, or you want to be a smart investor, you need to know the right questions to ask. These are the questions that get past the hype of a founder “vision to change the world,” and into the realm of real business strengths, weaknesses, and current health. Some founders try to deflect these questions by talking incessantly, so you often need to be calm, patient, and persistent to get the answers. My advice to founders out there is [Read More]

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Focus on a Real Customer Validation

December 21, 2011 by Marty Zwilling

Focus on a Real Customer to Validate Your Model

“Will the dogs eat the dog food?” This rather crude expression weighs heavily on the mind of all good startup founders, no matter how confident they appear. We all know the products they give away, and the ones purchased by family and friends don’t count. The real milestone, proving the business model, is that first product sold for full price to a total stranger, leaving him happy. So what can you do to expedite this event, or even improve the odds that it will happen at all? Of course, one [Read More]

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7 Types of Co-Founders that Can Wreck Your Startup

December 20, 2011 by Marty Zwilling

Co-Founders that Can Destroy Your Startup

Most entrepreneurs who start a company alone soon come to the conclusion that two heads are better than one – someone to share the workload, the hard decisions, and the costs. In a moment of crisis, you may be tempted to take on the first person expressing interest. This would be a mistake, and could easily cost you your startup. If you think about it, you should realize that not everyone is ‘ideal partner material.’ Most of us learn that in other partner relationships, like dating and marriage. First you [Read More]

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How Startups Should Think About Competition

December 19, 2011 by Marty Zwilling

How to think about competitors

Every entrepreneur should spend plenty of time thinking about competitors, and how they relate to your business, but you need to be very careful what you say out loud about them to your team, your investors, and your customers. What you say speaks volumes about how you think about your startup, how smart you are, and your personal integrity. I’ve spent hours talking to startup founders, and heard a thousand startup pitches, and I always listen carefully to what is said (or not said) about competitors. Everyone has a view [Read More]

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