In a Day in the Life, the Beatles tell us, “now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall”. In the day in the life of the entrepreneur, who is there to say how many holes there are yet to fill?
A few times last week, I was questioned as to why anyone needs a business accelerator vs. following in the path I took, learning the trade “in the streets” by starting startups. That answer took me back to Albert Hall.
After five sessions at Fledge, plus running Kick, plus teaching at Pinchot, it has become quite clear to me that the key to being a successful entrepreneur is knowing how to do the dozens of bits and pieces that constitute entrepreneurship. Missing any one leads to failure.
Some examples of holes… I’ve worked with great product people. They can design, build, and deploy amazing products. But they’ve no idea how to tell a story, and thus can’t market or sell their product. Or the flip side, great sales people, who can sell wool to a sheep, but who can’t sketch out five bullets or a diagram to explain the product to a developer. Or quite often, I work with entrepreneurs who can seemingly do everything, but who have no idea how to organize and execute a fundraising effort, either crowdfunding or Angel funding, and as such get stuck with a good idea but no way to move forward.
Most everyone has a hole somewhere in the process of building or managing a team. The skills for creating and running a five person team are vastly different than a team of five hundred or five thousand.
In hindsight, this all seems obvious. However in foresight, most entrepreneurs don’t realize that they have a hole in their knowledge. We don’t know what we don’t know. And yet, as an entrepreneur, any one of these holes can doom our startup to failure.
Startup accelerators, entrepreneurship classes, and advice on blogs like this all help fill those holes. Filling holes in the true value of accelerators. As one of the “fledglings” in the room today put it, “even if 11 of the 12 entrepreneurship classes at Fledge were a review, that 1 class is none the less invaluable”. The same for the one in a dozen meetings with mentors. Or any of the “a ha” moments one gets in the difficult process of starting a startup.
Someday, perhaps someone will map this all out in full, and tell us how many holes it takes to fill Startup Hall.
Hey Luni, love this post! Ironically, in school I didn’t want to get into an accelerator because I enjoyed solving problems for myself—especially gathering resources and people around those problems. This post really helped me conceptualize the role Fledge and Unreasonable play… it’s interesting though that a lot of people are saying accelerators need to specialize. Thoughts?
Also, assuming those holes equate to skills (or lack thereof), what would you say the essential skills are? If those holes are not necessarily skills, but holes in a process or mental framework too, what would you call them?
My 22 year-old self probably would have had that same opinion on self-help back when I started my first company. In hindsight, I wish TechStars had been around.
The problem with entrepreneurship is that there isn’t a simple, short list of skills. For most companies, you need to understand the customers, know how to build a business model, how to create a financial model to validate the business model, how to do the marketing, how to close sales, how to build a team, how to deal with cash flows often including outside investments, how to negotiate, how to build a team, how to lead, and how to balance all that with the rest of your life.
And that is just the general skills. Each company then adds a few more, specific to its market and business model.