A background in business is nice to have, but it’s not a ‘must have’ for a start-up entrepreneur. A significant number of entrepreneurs that receive angel and seed funding every year have no business background.
In my entrepreneurial journey four things that proved vital were: a dream, belief, passion, and the will to take action on these.
I had no background in business (I was, and am, a college dropout) but learnt about my passion, some of my abilities, plus picked up very useful skills in a job that preceded my two ventures in the same industry and domain.
Do you have any domain experience that relates to your business idea? If not, you might want to consider getting some work experience in that space first.
Tim Westergren’s business training was in a rock band, which is very relevant to the business he founded and in the domain of his venture.
Are you venturing on your own or do you have partners? Your startup team is key. The right team can overcome bad ideas, figure things out, make right decisions and execute effectively. So you need to ascertain if your startup team has the necessary complementary strengths and capabilities needed to create and deliver value. Also, do you have good chemistry; do you have a shared sense of purpose and values?
Having the right mentor can make a huge difference. Organizations like TiE (www.tie.org), with 57 chapters across 14 countries, provide a valuable platform to find mentors. They also help entrepreneurs learn the basics of starting or scaling a business, and network with potentials investors or partners.
Tap into the Right Resources
Quora is a good place to be. I would also recommend continuing to learn from the experiences of others through books and blogs. Tom Eisenmann of HBS has created a blog that has a lot of great advice for entrepreneurs.
Ask the Right Questions
An important thing to consider is if you know how entrepreneurial you are. To help answer this, you can visit www.bdc.ca and complete the test: ‘Am I the Entrepreneurial Type?’
The aim of every enterprise is to create and deliver value and sustain this profitably. In order to do this, we need to answer three vital questions—Which customers (and what needs) to serve? What value proposition to offer? How to deliver this value?
Most start-ups jump to answering the second and the third questions and this will result in more pain than gain.
The business model details how a business creates, delivers and captures value. I recommend that startups use a business model canvas to detail this.
Entrepreneurs would also need to answer the following 13 questions:
- Why do we exist? (Purpose)
- What is our aspiration (Vision)
- Exactly what problem will this solve? (Value Proposition)
- For whom do we solve that problem?(Target Segment)
- Do we have the capabilities for this? (Complementary Team)
- How big is the opportunity?(Market Size)
- What alternatives are out there? (Competitive Landscape)
- Why are we best suited to pursue this? (Our Differentiator)
- Why now? (Market Window)
- How will we get this solution to market? (Go-To-Market Strategy)
- How will we measure success? (Metrics/Revenue Strategy)
- What factors are critical to success? (Solution Requirements)
- Can we succeed—is this viable and sustainable? (Go or No-Go)
Finally, to succeed, according to Howard Schultz, the Chairman of Starbucks, you need to:
“Care more than others think wise. Risk more than others think safe. Dream more than others think practical. Expect more than others think possible.”
Just do it!