Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

On Fred Wilson’s 10 Ways to Start a Business 2

Hooray for Fred Wilson, a VC (Union Ventures) with a blog named A VC, for this brilliant 20-minute talk called 10 Ways to Be Your Own Boss, posted on his blog as online video. Fred calmly and carefully blows apart the way-too-common assumption that starting a business is about finding investors. He does this with a simple list of examples, each of which is a happy healthy business, most of which started and grew without outside investment.

He begins this talk with a couple of absolutely great quotes. The first, from a comment on Fred’s blog:

“Entrepreneurship exists in the tiny space between madness and genius; and its journey requires a few cross border violations across both madness and genius to get to the final destination.”

The second, from a tweet, shown here on the right, highlighting addiction to a monthly salary.

What I really love is the point he makes with the list. All 10 of these start-your-business instances seems perfectly understandable.

  1. The one-man show. He uses Matt Druge of the Drudge Report as an example.
  2. The two-man show with a partner.
  3. The husband and wife team. You already have a partnership. Assuming your marriage works, you already have a partnership that works. Designer and programmer, marketer and programmer. I know this one very well. Palo Alto Software started like that.
  4. The small office boutique. Fred says Union Ventures is one of those; six people. Small and happy.
  5. A federation of small businesses. He mentions Allen & Co., a New York investment bank. A lot of independents sharing a name and overhead. This works for professional services, like architects, attorneys, consultants.
  6. Projects: films, books, recordings … be an entrepreneur going from project to project to project. A good model for people with unique skills, if they can get work whenever they want.
  7. A cool website, as a small business, He mentions The Hype Machine at hypem.com, which started as a one-person website, remains small, but also profitable. It works as a one-person business, with some freelance resources, managed via laptop from places around the world.
  8. The small team bootstrapped startup. He shows redstamp.com, virtual cards that can be physical cards. This is a small-group quintessential startup, moving fast, flexible, having fun.
  9. The eventually-got-funded startup that started out as a few people working for free. Get it going, get it funded, then make it right.
  10. The startup that was spun out from another company. Twitter is an example. It was a piece of a business that got split apart.

That’s just 10, he says, and he limited his list to 10 only because he had only 20 minutes. He implied he could have gone a lot longer.

The point, made very powerfully in a delightfully cumulative way, is that only two of these 10 raised outside investment money. And one of those two got well on its way first, with people working for free, believing that the future would repay them.

One small detail that bugs me here is the “be your own boss” description of starting a business. I decided to put that into the 140-character tweet format as I was writing this. Here it is:

  • http://www.tropicalisland.cz Kym

    Building upon your tweet, “Your clients/customers are your boss”, they often choose your hours as well. Most small business owners I have spoken with don’t have the luxury of working 2 hours per day and lazing on the beach for the remainder of the day. They have to be available when their clients/customers are available.
    +1

  • http://simplewebguys.com JayTurn

    Thanks for bringing my attention to the video Tim, it is a beauty. I love the last paragraph from your post as well, it truly hits home.

    When I meet people for the first time and we begin discussing shop, about 95% of them are of the belief that working for yourself must be great because you can choose your own hours.

    In a way it is kind of true, but the hours you must choose are far longer than those spent working for someone else, unless you automate everything (not good when done for customer service).

    Building upon your tweet, “Your clients/customers are your boss”, they often choose your hours as well. Most small business owners I have spoken with don’t have the luxury of working 2 hours per day and lazing on the beach for the remainder of the day. They have to be available when their clients/customers are available.

    Obviously this is different for those business owners with a number of employees working with them but it takes time for most to reach that point without outside investment.