As a serial entrepreneur who’s achieved an impressive five exits, you might think social networking pioneer Andrew Weinreich would have a lot to say about how to build and sell a business. But in fact, on a particularly sunny day in Hoboken, NJ at the Propelify Innovation Festival, he shared that he’s totally fascinated with the other end of the entrepreneurial spectrum. That is, why do people even start a business to begin with? “It’s a much more interesting question,” Weinreich says.
“I’ve never met a smart person who didn’t have a great, disruptive idea,” he says. Yet so few of them actually start a business. What separates the entrepreneur from everyone else? Weinreich attributes it to nothing more than this: their ability to create motion where others can’t. There are five things, Weinreich goes on to explain, that are key for creating motion when starting your business.
Establish Your Perspective
First you have to understand that people don’t invest in ideas, people invest in entrepreneurs who are visionaries. Achieving visionary status may seem daunting, but it really comes down to developing a perspective about a space. What will be fundamentally different about the future? How will people think differently?
“If you’re Uber, your perspective isn’t simply 'we can build a better taxi service.'" Weinreich explains. “Your vision is, 'There’s something that fundamentally doesn’t make sense about a regulated industry that uses medallions. There’s a future where there are autonomous cars, and where we will think about transportation differently.'”
Every great company starts with a macro-thesis. What’s your perspective on how things can be different from how they are today?
Discard the inclination to keep your idea under wraps. “People don’t invest because they think you have an original idea, they invest because they think you can run faster,” Weinreich says. “When I conceive of an idea, instead of keeping it secret, I tell everyone I know.” Try sharing your idea with as many people as will listen to you. Even better, identify ten people you believe in that you want to share your idea with, including experts and even people you fear might compete with you. Just be aware, Weinreich warns, that when you’re talking about a space that will look fundamentally different in the future than it does today, a lot of people are going to tell you that you’re crazy.
Construct a Plan
Next, demonstrate the discipline to ask and answer all the questions you think might come up associated with your business. The best way to do that, Weinreich says, is to “write a business plan. Not for an investor, not for an advisor, but for yourself.” Put together cash flow projections for the same reason. Through these exercises, you’ll gain perspective on all the questions associated with the execution of your idea.
Check Your Staying Power
Now ensure you have the staying power to go without capital for one year. This could come in the form of support from friends and family, your willingness to eat Rice-A-Roni for a year, or simply the fortitude and certainty that you’re headed in the right direction. For your next litmus test, reflect on whether you could make a 10 year commitment. “If you're not willing to engage in this business for 10 years, this isn’t the right opportunity for you,” Weinreich says. “Businesses are not created overnight. If you are willing to stay the course, then you are someone who is ready to get going.”
Burn the Boat
The final step creating motion is to do something that makes the path backwards irreversible. Quit your job, take capital from a friend you don’t want to let down, hire someone, announce to family you’re done with career, or broadcast it on social media. Bridge burning can take different forms for different people, but ultimately it’s whatever gets you across the point of no return.
Accomplish the above, and you will be among the small group of people who actually start a business. “Surprisingly, you’ll find your chances of success are far more dramatic than they are sitting on the sidelines,” Weinreich says.
For more conversations like these, head to the Propelify YouTube channel or join thousands of innovators across the Northeast in Hoboken, NJ on May 18 at the Propelify Innovation Festival for a day of tech, investors, talks, exhibitors, VR, drones, and music.