September 21, 2009 in ATDC News

Do You Have the Right Stuff?

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There are many reasons why one would choose to be an entrepreneur. Here are some common ones. Please add to the list in the comments.

  • I hate working for big companies, want to get out of my cubicle and be my own boss
  • I want to be rich and have my own airplane
  • I have spent the last 5 years in grad school creating this technology and want to build a company around it
  • All my friends are doing it
  • I read Techcrunch and it sure looks easy
  • I cannot find a job, so I wrote a business plan instead

All of these are perfectly valid reasons to become an entrepreneur. Whatever motivates you to work hard and push the envelope. But I want to suggest what it really takes. If you want to launch a successful startup, here are the two most important skills required:

  1. Can sell
  2. Can develop a product

The critical fact – if you cannot do one of those things, you are not likely to be a successful entrepreneur. Let’s say you want to build a software startup. If you cannot write brilliant code and are not extraordinarily good at selling software, but are just the idea guy, stop. You cannot outsource these things. Spend a year or two and become a first class Ruby (or PHP) developer. Or go sell Yellow Pages ads for a year and learn how to truly sell.

The ideal scenario is to have a partner that has the complementary skill. If you’re a product guy, go find a kick-ass salesperson to be your cofounder. Or vice-versa. It’s always best if the product guy cannot sell and the salesperson cannot write software. You want your salesperson to wake up every morning thinking about who they’re going to sell to. It is always easier to write code than make a sales call. This temptation by itself can destroy a startup.

It is my contention that if you cannot either create a product or sell it, then you don’t have the right stuff to be an entrepreneur. You had better have a very large checkbook.

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