Pointers to Entrepreneurs

Pointers to Entrepreneurs

On: 2012-04-26 12:36:13 | Guest: Brant Cooper

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Basel: That was really insightful. Going to our last question, our standard question of the show. What are the key pointers you would like to give to our entrepreneurs in the Arab world?

Brant: Good question. I don't know very much about the landscape, the startup or entrepreneurial landscape of the Arab world. One of the things that I do see when I'm traveling, really outside of Silicon Valley, but especially outside of the United States, is culturally - and again, I don't know if this is true. I'd love to hear feedback whether this is true or not. A difficult part of an entrepreneurship culture is the acceptance of failure. In a lot of cultures, that's really bad. You can't even admit to your parents when you've failed, let alone your community. Yet, failure, that's the standard operating procedure [laughs] for startups.

So, what you want to do is use the failure to your advantage, and that's really what the pivot's all about. You want to be able to know when it is time to change part of your business model. You want to hypothesize what you think is the way it should work, and then when it doesn't work that way, "Are there changes that I can make to try to make it work?" And, "After I've gone through those iterations, is it time to admit failure and that part of my business model is wrong, and now I'm going to pivot?"

What the term, pivot, really means is you're going to change fundamentally some parts of your business model, while keeping what you've learned. You keep your pivot foot in what you've learned. You have to be able to, in that way, you need to be able to grasp failure. You need to be able to understand it, and you need to not be ashamed of it, and you need to be able to use that to your advantage.

Frankly, in my experience, the people who get lean startups and the people who get customer development are people that have had failures. If you read Eric Ries' book and if you read Steve Blank's blog and his other writings, you can find that. You can find where they've admitted their failures and that that's what pointed them in the right direction. That's sort of the number one message. And the number two thing is that you have to be willing to take risks. You have to be disruptive. Sometimes, that means breaking the rules and then asking for permission later. That's another tough thing for a lot of cultures to do.

I was in Malaysia and I was talking to this guy who said that he had this idea; there were a bunch of competitors that were doing similar things. He was a little bit lower cost but there wasn't a lot of differentiation between his competitors. It was this solution that he wanted to sell to farmers, but he had to get permission from the government to go and talk to these farmers, or something. Which I thought was like, "Really?" But I said, "You know, [laughs] I don't want to get you thrown in jail, or anything.

But what you should do is get in a car and drive out there and talk to these farmers. And if you can actually figure out a solution where you can make it easier for these farmers to be more efficient and to use your products and it improves them as business men and that sort of thing. And you find three or four of them and then you go talk to the government, then you've got a better case than if you're just trying to go through the bureaucracy first."

Sometimes, that's what it takes. It's the risk taking and it's the breaking of the rules. Actually, in the end maybe, what his differentiation is, is the distribution. It opens up your mind to where your disruption could be. It's maybe, not product features, it's maybe, you know, Amazon. Maybe, it's just distribution play. Once you start thinking about there aren't rules or whatever, at least, in your own mind, it opens up where the creativity might come from and maybe there's a larger disruption opportunity there.

About the Guest:

Brant Cooper helps startups get started

As the author of the popular Lean Startup book "The Entrepreneur`s Guide to Customer Development.", he is a sought-after writer, speaker and consultant. The "CustDev book" is required course text at several universities, including the University of Chicago MBA program, Stanford University, De Paul, Boston University, UC Santa Barbara and
University of Oslo. Brant has been published in Venture Beat and Business Insider and frequently travels the world speaking to entrepreneurs at conferences, hackathons and workshops.

He has spoken at Qualcomm, the Kuala Lumpur Venture Capital Symposium, and Lean Startup conferences in Vancouver and Michigan. Other speaking events include the Forward Technology Conference in Wisconsin, the Lean Startup Challenge in Boston, and Lean Startup
Machines in London, New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco.

Brant consults for and advises startups on Lean Startups and Customer Development, serving clients in Silicon Valley, New York, San Diego, France, Australia and Singapore. Clients include Qualcomm, MOGL, HubKick, MotherKnows, i.TV, and Lean Startup Machine.

Brant Cooper is passionate about growing the San Diego tech community. He runs the San Diego Tech Founders monthly meetup that consistently draws 200 attendees. Brant is also the curator for the San Diego edition of the Startup Digest. Brant mentored at CONNECT for four years and holds open office hours at a weekly informal coffee meetup.

Brant has over 20 years experience in IT and a long track record of bringing innovative products to market. As a leader in Professional Services, Product Management and Marketing, he has directed strategy, design, marketing and implementation of numerous products for a variety of startups including Tumbleweed, Timestamp, WildPackets, Incode and InfoBright.

Brant Cooper blogs at Market By Numbers and tweets @brantcooper.

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Pointers to Entrepreneurs

Brant Cooper will share some great pointers and tips to entrepreneurs starting their businesses.

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