April 29, 2009

Guy Kawasaki: The Art Of The Start in Scotland

Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki came to Edinburgh to help 100s of students, startups and investors understand better how to make the world a better place through startups.

1. Make meaning
The great tech companies did much more than make money. They made the world a better place, they brought meaning to people. If you want to make a great startup make sure that you are and that you surround yourself with people who want to make changes to the world - this is why an MBA is the worst possible member of your startup management team.

Efficacy, power and liberation is the message we get from cotton, leather and rubber, via Nike. What's the message we get from you about your startup or big idea?

Ice 1.0
Ice harvesters of the 1900s ran an explosive business gathering ice. Later, ice factories produced mass quantities of ice for people. Then refrigerator companies destroyed both businesses. The ice factories were not started by the ice gatherers; the refrigerator companies were not started by the ice factory people. Most people, most startups, fail to jump the curve - they think they'll just carry on without change. They think of the product they make, rather than what they provide (and then coming up with different, ever-changing products to achieve that provision better).

2. Make mantra
Find meaning for your mission, but don't make a mission statement. Delete anything that would qualify for a bullshit bingo competition: partnership, collaboration, cooperation. These are givens. A mantra should be repeatable by everyone in the company, and everyone in the company should be able to make decisions based on that: Do It First, Inspire Change, Make Trouble.

3. Get going
Think different - don't be another ice harvester
Polarise people - have the courage to create the product or service that you would want to use. Some people will hate it and some people will love it. If you try to make something that makes everyone happy then you'll make something mediocre.
Find a few soul mates - genius does not happen alone. You need someone to bounce ideas around with.

4. Define a business

Keep it simple
- paradigm-shifting, patent-pending technologies are not going to tempt most people. Most folk want something that can be made, sold and collect money. Keep your business model simple.
Ask women what they think of your business model - Guy believes that men, deep in their DNA, have a deep disposition to kill things: people, animals, plants... the competition. Killing the competition is a bad business model in and of itself. Don't count on that to convince people.

5. Milestones, Assumptions, Tasks - Weave a MAT
Milestones are things you would brag about to your friends: "we finished the design", "we produced our product"; "we shipped today". It's not "we made a logo".
Assumptions are based on, say, getting a tiny percentage out of a huge market: there are 1.2bn on the net, and we only need 0.1% on our service to become zilloinnaires.
Define the tasks required to open up your potential: hire a sales person.

6. Work out your ability to provide a unique product or service
Unique product or service

What is unique and valuable about your idea?

7. Follow the 10/20/30 rule
Every pitch a VC (or Commissioner) hears is unique, paradigm-shifting, patent-pending, with a proven management team who are experts in what they do, who only need a small part of a huge market to make loads of money (conservatively speaking). Less is more. Tell us:

  • The title
  • The Problem
  • The Solution
  • The Business Model
  • The Underlying Magic
  • The Marketing and Sales
  • The Competition
  • The Team
  • The Projections and Milestones
  • The Status and Timeline
  • The Call To Action

More on what goes in these over on Guy's blog.

8. Hire infected people
If you get a great horse then any idiot can ride it to the finish line. But were they responsible for getting it there?
Ignore the irrelevant, the lack of their 'perfect' background for the job and, instead, concentrate on those who "get it".
Hire people, surround yourself with people who are passionate about changing the world with your stuff. Hire people who are better than you - the hardest part of the startup is not the engineering. Marketing and sales, CEO-ing, community-building are just as hard and you need to work out what you're not good at, and get in people are are good at it.

9. Lower the barriers to adoption
The learning curve for startups' products is often too complex. People need to be able to fire up and go for it. If they need a manual or training for your stuff, then it's too complex. Lower the barriers to adoption. In Edinburgh, the one o'clock gun goes off at precisely one o'clock so that you can set your watch. It doesn't go off at noon because they'd have to fire twelve times and the users wouldn't know whether to set at the beginning or the end of the 12 chimes.
Don't ask people to do something that you wouldn't.
Embrace your evangelists. Those customers or users who love what you do need to be thanked, embraced, give them information, give them the ability to help new people into the fold.

10. Seed the clouds
Sales fixes everything. Your investors are probably facing 90% of their portfolio not making money, so if you're in that successful (even vaguely successful) 10% they'll not bother you.
Let a hundred flowers blossom. When "the wrong people" are using your service don't freak out, don't tell them how it's not their service to use - take their money and embrace them. Apple made spreadsheets, but Aldus Pagemaker was the "wrong product" but turned Apple into a media-making-enabler company.
Enable people to test drive your product. People need to be able to be playing before paying. Find the key influencers in your community and give them the product for free.

11. Don't let the Bozos grind you down
Get yourself immunised against Bozosity:

  • This "telephone" has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.
    Western Union internal memo, 1876

  • Everything that can be invented has been invented.
    Charles H Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899

  • I think there is a world market for about five computers.
    Remark attributed to Thomas Watson, chairman of the board of IBM, 1943

  • There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.
    Ken Olsen, President of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977

On the flip side, it's not the case that we should be writing off anyone who says no. People who say no can sometimes be right - take on their advice and work out if you can ignore it.

Pic: From Alex. Thanks ;-)

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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