Rick Marini is Founder/CEO of BranchOut and Talk.co, an enterprise chat service for teams to communicate in real-time on mobile and desktop.
Tenacity – start-up entrepreneurs need to be many things including tenacious. They need to have a vision and tenaciously pursue that idea with every resource available to them to win. Sometimes, the market shifts and you need to be flexible and resilient in quickly adapting to change.
Build for the end-user. An entrepreneur needs to have an idea that addresses a market need. Build a product to address that but then dig in with your customers. Their feedback should shape your list of features and priorities. At the end of the day, it’s all about serving the customer.
Network effect. In network effect businesses, the larger the network, the more powerful the service. It’s crucial for the user to understand that they gain far more value in using the service if they invite their connections. if there is compelling value to them, they will quickly grow the user base for you… but you need to have a value-driving product in place with the right marketing message.
I look for 4 personality characteristics when I hire: intelligence, integrity, fun and entrepreneurism. I like to hang out with smart, fun, solid people who roll up their sleeves. Those are the 4 characteristics that I strive for too. I have found that people enjoy working with others like that which comes through in the interview process and keeps retention high. Working with great people goes a long way.
We have a weekly all-hands staff meeting. We all sit down for lunch together which helps bond people. We have several members of the staff provide updates every week so the entire team is current on product plans, strategy, HR events (birthdays, anniversary’s new hires), etc. Anyone can ask any questions or contribute so we have a transparent, open culture. People appreciate that.
The first sales or partnerships usually start with the CEO leveraging their network. The CEO needs to believe in the product and get in front of trusted friends that could be customers. Give it away for free to start to show the value and get valuable feedback. Once you have a real product which adds value to “friendly” companies, you can start charging other firms.
This stuff is hard! Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur and be the next Zuckerberg but his success is far from normal. Most start-ups fail and entrepreneurs should understand that going in. That said, after founding 4 companies over the past 14 years, there is nothing else I’d rather do!
Fundraising hack — if you are raising an angel round, it is hugely valuable to get a well known angel investor committed. It sends a signal to the rest of the angel and seed investors that a smart, respected member of the community thinks there is something good going on. That validation opens the door to other solid investors following them. Work hard to get those influencers involved.
Launch parties – a few years back, start-ups would raise a Series A and then throw these incredible but very expensive launch parties. I loved attending them but looking back… the bigger the launch party, the bigger the flame out. Thankfully, I was always an attendee and never the host of one of these crazy shindigs.