In this article, we asked several of our readers, who are known entrepreneurs how they started their entrepreneurial journey.
We hope that this article will inspire you on your entrepreneurial journey as well. At the end of the article, we have written 2 short paragraphs of what you should ultimately do to become an entrepreneur.
I took the $60-$100k that I would have spent on an MBA and placed it in my business.
There is very little in a traditional MBA program that will help you be a successful entrepreneur.
Most programs are designed to turn out middle level managers and/or junior executives at an established company. Companies look for credentials – entrepreneurs execute.
The business knowledge you need to know to start and run a company is already at your fingertips: there are lots of book lists such as our curated list as well as plenty of 90-day MBA books on Amazon that will give you a good primer.
If you want to take a few accounting or business law classes at your local community college they might be helpful, but there are many books available on these subjects that are easier to understand than your average textbook.
One of the biggest mistakes I see inexperienced founders make is they assume they need to know and do everything themselves. Nothing is further from the truth.
- Having a little accounting knowledge helps, but you will hire an accountant to work out the details.
- Business Law is helpful, but there is no substitute for an attorney.
- Marketing will be essential, but there are lots of people who can help you. Eventually you will hire someone full time.
- Understanding software development life cycles and methodologies may be helpful if you’re a tech startup, but trying code yourself is senseless for most founders.
As an entrepreneur, your job is set the vision and grow the business: to make sure your company’s product/service finds paying customers and that customers find you.
You need to assemble and grow your team. There are no classes that will teach you that.
When your business gets to the point where you think you need an MBA, you can always hire one for less than the cost of attending classes yourself and avoid distractions that will drag you away from your businesses.
Entrepreneur is in my blood.
Being an entrepreneur is in my blood. I had my first venture when I was 9 years old. It was speculating in aquarium supplies and taking advantage of hyperinflation, currency trading, and lack of price control. I understood how to do this intuitively.
No one told me it was illegal to do this in USSR.
Though I was an entrepreneur most of my life, switching from selling services to selling a product was not intuitive.
I started being an IT consultant in 1994. Most of the time I worked for myself with moderate success. I somewhat recently decided to stop trying to compete in an increasingly crowded commodity market of IT consultants. It was time to create a product.
This marked my transition from being a consultant to starting a “real” startup.
My definition of a real startup is building something that can scale globally without consuming my time except for customer-related activities.
Becoming an entrepreneur seems to require a change in perspective.
Pay very close attention to when people complain about something. There is opportunity to make money when people are willing to pay to make a problem go away.
Changing the world
It is a lofty goal, but that usually takes a lot of money. I view getting there as requiring Multistage Rocket to go to another planet.
Stage 1 does the heavy lifting. That is starting the first startup and bootstrapping it. You may need to do it multiple times. It is really hard to start with nothing and relentlessly build something.
Stage 2 is maintaining momentum and accelerating. At this point the startup is starting to scale. This can also be a second startup that is better suited to scaling.
Stage 3 is accelerating to achieve escape velocity. Your venture starts to generate real wealth and you may have an exit event to generate massive amount of wealth.
That is so far fairly obvious, but it does not end there…
Stage 4 is assembling an interplanetary vehicle in orbit. If your goal is to change the world, that venture will likely consume a lot of funding. Think of this as stage 1 for building your real dream.
Elon Musk is an obvious example.
Without his initial success selling PayPal to eBay (escape velocity), it would have been very difficult for him to start assembling his world-changing companies (Tesla and SpaceX).
Therefore, my first two startups will not change the world. They will only serve as a launch vehicle to build something entirely different. 🙂
Here is how I see it:
Crashproof (Stage 1) gets me some revenue. It’s difficult to market, a one-time use product, and it will not scale very well. It makes significant gross profit. Its purpose is to subsidize my marketing budget for my second startup.
Vostimonial (Stage 2-3) will probably get me to escape velocity. It requires significant marketing budget, but the margins are much better. It will scale globally.
Stealth company (Stage 4) will be massively profitable. Getting to that point will require a massive budget (I looked at my projected costs and they are in the millions) and significant headcount. It will change the shape of at least one industry, which is why I don’t talk about it.
The first keynote I ever watched was the unveiling of the iPhone. Prior to that, I didn’t know that product unveiling keynotes existed. I learned a lot about product presentations from watching more keynotes after that.
It starts from a young age.
It is all about exploring opportunities and going for it. As a young I never did “business” to earn money, but rather did it to explore different fields and have some fun during holidays.
I would not call them a success or failure, but it was an adventure.
Age 7: I used to create greeting cards during Diwali, Christmas and other important festivals and roam the area selling them in every house on my little bicycle.
The business was in loss since I was spending more than 10 rupees per card, but selling for 5. [I was weak at understanding profit/loss or economics].
The plus side was I used to be offered chocolates, cookies and lot of other snacks to much and people used to buy cards just to encourage more and more.
Lesson – If you are cute, you will earn money and food, no matter what you sell 🙂
Age 8: In the 90’s not many had a PC in my town, and cybercafes used to be the only source for many to enjoy some computer games. N
ear my grandad’s house, there was a cybercafe, to where I used to bring my friends, and in return he used to let me play for free [I was their marketing consultant :D].
Once I requested the person to share all games so that I play in my house, and that guy did. Soon I realised that I could attract my friends in my house, charge 50% and earn a little. So I had lot of kids visiting my home and play around.
My grandparents and parents assumed they came to play with me, but the truth was I was running a illegal and underground cybercafe.
Once while cleaning my room, my granny came across jars of coins. I knew I was screwed. Luckily, I was explained in a very mild way, and made to return all the money.
I had a book maintained where I had kept all accounts.
Lesson – Run things the legal way and always maintain accounts of money transactions.
Age 10: Summer vacation. Decided to start selling lemonade. Got seed capital from grandmother. Incubated outsides Uncle’s stationary shop.
Had no idea about competition and their prices. Not sold a single glass in first 10hours, finally started putting discounts.
Printed discount coupons on printer, and day 2 , did one of the best sales.
Noticed there was a football tournament, gave a franchise to a friend under brand sharing and royalty deal. Earned 750INR profits a day!
Ran the business for 15 days. Earned a lot, bought toys and burnt the remaining profits having food at different places [I did return the seed funding].
Lesson – Perfect time, location and demand can do wonders to a business. Franchising and delegation is an important part of expansion.
Age 16: Had interest in Bikes and Cycles.
Decided to help a local mechanic during summer vacations. Noticed that spares were available in the city, near my school.
Started helping many mechanics near my house, by managing their logistics. Friends used to help me source spare parts for a marginal profit margins. But earned enough to enjoy some treats post school 🙂
Lesson – Use scarcity to your advantage. Always be aware of your surroundings, you never know how you can help someone for a little price.
Age 19: Got first Android phones. Many in my college started purchasing by following the market trend.
I was the first in my area to root a Samsung Galaxy Fit. Used to flash roms [was one of the first contributors to Cyanogen Community before it became cool and popular].
Noticed that many in my college wanted to root their phones. So I began charging them to root and flash roms. Earned enough pocket money for bike trips, weekend lunches and most of my college stationary.
Lesson – Cool technology is something that sounds really cool and people are ready to pay a price to upgrade themselves.
Age 20: Along with previous work, started dealing with used Bikes and Cellphones.
Had developed a great network across North Karnataka and South Maharashtra, and used to help bike enthusiasts purchase exotic cars and bikes, ranging from Bullets to Wheelis.
Also used to deal with used mobiles. Many people in my region didn’t have great trust in olx and quikr. Used to earn anything around INR10K to INR 50k !!
Lesson – Running a competition of a online giant at a very local level also has a great business potential.
Age 21: Met someone online and sarted having discussion on a startup called LabeltCustom, that provided customized premium formals across the country.
Not only assisted website but helped design a business model, attended events, promoted in different levels. Most of this was done even before we met each other.
As my engineering was about to complete, the startup had matured quite nicely. Formally was the CEO for a short amount of time 🙂
Had to leave it, but I still help and hangout with him whenever we meet.
Lesson – Running a formal business is tougher than what it looks. There are lot of things that create a worry when big money and tasks are involved.
Find something your passionate about then find a need and fill it. There are literally thousands of entrepreneurs who found success simply by filling a need they found.
It might take a lot of brainstorming and research, you might have to make some calls and send some emails, read some forums and blogs and figure out what is actually needed.
This is the single most effective way to be a successful entrepreneur. Everyone gravitates to where they see money – but if it’s not your passion then you will lose interest.