The Complete Coward’s Guide to Starting a Company: Part 2
Read part 1 here: //www.wallstreetoasis.com/blog/the-complete-coward%E2%80%99s-guide-to-starting-a-company-part-1
Like many of you, I side with those who scoff at the amount of time the developed world wastes in formalized education - i.e., reading and studying rather than doing. In the startup world, this disdain for formalized education is even more pronounced. (Interesting sidebar: statistically, a billion dollar company is no more likely to have been founded by someone with a graduate degree than a high school dropout.)
Despite this, the fact remains that there is some value in thinking before doing, as this approach will save you from making as many mistakes, will reduce your learning curve once you start doing, and will give you the basic level of knowledge that is necessary to operate in your industry. The problem is that what you learned in college was probably geared almost entirely toward working in the traditional corporate setting.
In the startup world, everything is different. The models of thought burned into your brain in college no longer apply, because the assumptions they are based on aren't true in the startup environment. The analogy I've heard is that formalized education (and the MBA in particular) prepare you to be the equivalent of the highly trained engineer who does the complex calculations to adjust a racecar's spoiler to exactly the right height and angle, giving the car the edge it needs to shave a few milliseconds off its time in a high-stakes race.
In a startup, in contrast, you're not fine-tuning a world-class vehicle. You're just trying to get some wheels to stay on a chassis, and the skills required to do that are 100% different. People who try to apply their MBA education to startups often just get in the way. In fact, the startup world's well-known quick and dirty valuation method is to add $250,000 to the value of the company for every engineer, and subtract $500,000 for each MBA.
The point is that there is a knowledge base needed for startups that is completely different from the knowledge base you have, and you're going to need that foundation to operate in the startup world. Fortunately for you, I'm doing all the work for you.
#3: Consider a class
I strongly recommend Stanford Professor Chuck Eesley's free online Technology Entrepreneurship classes. I first discovered these from WSO's very own @Edmundo Braverman (thanks Eddie!), and learned a lot in a very short amount of time. With the class, I honestly went from knowing nothing about how things worked to being very comfortable with my knowledge base. Chuck takes a very practical approach, where you actually start a company and put into practice each week's lesson as the company progresses. There is a heavy focus on software startups, especially for part two of the course, but the material is useful for any type of startup.
You can go to http://venture-lab.org/venture to register for the class, which will run for about three months. Unfortunately, the current session is closed to registration right now, but a new one has historically started every three months, and the last one ended in mid-March. As long as the class hasn't been discontinued, I would expect registration to be open for the next class sometime in the next few weeks.
As with any MOOC, you'll get a wide range of people, from middle schoolers in Kazakhstan to genius engineers and experienced CEOs. The good news is that the site's built-in search functions make it pretty easy to find people with quality skills and experience. My cofounders were a software engineer from the European Space Agency and an electrical.
We also continued the company we founded, were accepted into an accelerator, and just raised our seed round a few weeks ago. You might not continue your company, but you will learn a lot if you take the class seriously.
#4: Read Up
For some independent reading, below are three lists that I highly recommend you make your way through before making the leap to full-time startup executive. While not a ranking, each list is roughly in the order of most useful to least useful, so in general, start from the top.
These lists are only to get you started. Most of the books are pretty short, and with an hour of reading a day, you should be able to get through everything listed below in a couple months, possibly less if you're already a reader.
1. Must-Read Books for Basic Startup Knowledge
These are the books that everyone in the startup world read long ago. You'll need to grasp the concepts in the books to understand what's going on; if you don't, it will be tough to get people to take you seriously.
The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank
Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore
The Long Tail by Chris Anderson
The Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar
The Art of the Pitch by Stephen Coughter
Mastering the VC Game by Jeffrey Bussgang
The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
One Simple Idea by Stephen Key
2. Must-Read Online Sources for Basic Startup Knowledge
The categories below are for short reading, or when you don't have a book on you.
What people are talking about in the startup world.
These aren't updated quite as frequently, so put them in your RSS feed to avoid wasted time checking for new content.
Other Online Resources
More useful information if you want to keep going.
3. Must-Read Books for Anyone Who Wants to Succeed at Anything
This list does not fall specifically in the category of basic startup knowledge. However, you will find upon entering the startup world that success requires you to reach a new level in basic skills like time management, organization, and so forth. The effect of your choices, habits, and behaviors are magnified when there isn't an organization to prop you up or hide you. So, I would recommend you also take the time to read the following short list of books to kickstart your personal growth. They might save you from learning some lessons the hard way.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch
Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Part 3 to follow…