What is the most common mistake first-time entrepreneurs make?

photo: mymarketingthing.com
Most first-time entrepreneurs don't validate their assumptions as quickly and frequently as they should. 

Most people start their research online, then they talk to a bunch of people and as soon as they have their "first brilliant idea" - they isolate themselves and rush to "finish" the product. That's a big mistake. 

I encourage people to prepare and present a sales pitch to actual customers, pretending the product is ready, even before a prototype is ready. Asking people for casual opinions is all well and good but asking them to pay for it - is the real moment of truth. It often removes months of wasted effort in developing things that "seem logical but no one wants to pay for". There is a big difference between useful and getting paid for something useful (and the answers often surprise everyone). 

Most people don't reach out early and often because of the following reasons: 
  • They are excited about their brand spanking new idea and want to "finish" it as soon as they can (much like binge watching on Netflix)
  • They receive initial criticism and of course they don't like it, so they start to avoid talking about it
  • They consider their idea to be extremely valuable and likely to be stolen
  • They find it hard to articulate the value and most people don't like to sell anyway
Unfortunately, there is no alternative to "putting yourself out there". It is very much part of "showing up for work". Either you do it yourself or find a partner who does it for you.

The point of “point of no return”

Image courtesy: heritage-history.com
In 49 BC a general sat hesitantly on the banks of Rubicon. A conflict between him and the empire had been brewing for years. He had been ordered by the Consul to disband his army, vacate his post as the governor and report back to Senate. If he followed their orders, he would lose his immunity and would probably be prosecuted for insubordination

Crossing the river would however change that. He would be violating an ancient law and committing treason. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind on what would happen if he didn't triumph. He and his army would be executed. Since he had not revealed his intentions in public, he still had the opportunity to turn back and renegotiate his position. A tiny stream of water divided the choices between a potential prosecution and absolutely certain execution

Get noticed first, solve problems later

photo credit: synappz.wordpress.com

It may not seem so, but it is more important to get noticed, than to it is have ideas to solve problems Unless you are a world-shifting writer/artist/ scientist... there is very little you can accomplish just by yourself. Almost everything else needs groups of people working together and supporting each other. 

There is a need to excite people around you. Friends, employees, volunteers, customers, sponsors, investors, critics, voters, administrators... you have to get them to listen to you and you can do that only if you are visible. That opens up the possibility of you communicating with people and getting a reaction. Whether they give a positive or negative reaction is a different matter. Whether you are being intrusive or not, also is a different matter. All that comes into play only after you show up on that notification window or email or word of mouth or phone call or poster or announcement or infomercial or radio ...
What are you going to solve if no one knows you?  Who cares what you have to offer if you "don't exist"? What great things can you accomplish if you can't win  other people's trust?

Things that could have gone wrong ...but didn't

My parents have always told me to take time to be grateful about the good things in life. While I don't see value in counting good things on a daily basis (remember the widely successful 3 good things exercise? Doesn't work for me). With time I have realized that it is good to take time out to be grateful once in a while (even though we don't admit it, parents are right. Aren't they? :)). If nothing it puts things into a macro perspective and is a welcome change from daily fire-fighting. 

I had listed down "how I fail" in an earlier post (connected reading).  In this post I will try to be candid about things in the last year that could have gone wrong (in the businesses I invest in or help run)... but didn't:

How to understand a great cricketer (and why Kallis is weird)?

Disclaimer: Believe it or not, this was written as a tribute to Jacques Kallis

photo credit: radiosport.co.nz
The world has produced lots of men and women (and animals and trees). Out of all those life forms, some of them are what we call - great. For example, the sight of a disinterested, carefree, self possessed polar bear on a bright sunny day - is great. In the same fashion, it is awesome to see great cricketers weave their magic. On the occasion of Kallis's retirement, I think it is important to spend a little bit of time first trying to find a good way to understand the greatness (especially with respect to cricketers). And then figure out where Kallis fits into all that. There are of course reasonable, normal and plausible statistical ways to express their greatness. But who cares about that? Right? Lets try to do this a bit differently.

While these Sons of Gods do their craft or toy with laws of physics or decimate poor mortals - it has a unique effect on us, the fans. That, I think, is a good place to start. Lets consider a Tendulkar cover drive on a delivery turning away from him. Doesn't it feel like the perfect lemon meringue pie? The less anyone on the field moves (trying/bothering to stop the ball), the better the pie tastes. What about Warne spinning satan-ish hell around an otherwise respectable batsman? That has to invoke very specific emotions. No true fan can stay calm after a thumping Lara square cut (or a Ganguly drive for belligerent Bengalis) on a perfectly good ball. It might feel like the perfect smell of coffee on a cold morning or a spectacular white horse riding on a particularly fluffy cloud. My wife, I am sure, has stopped reading by now. She thinks I have a habit of giving unnecessary examples that no one understands. Duh!