LinkedIn co-founder and angel investor Reid Hoffman says now's the time for bold entrepreneurship. Current economic conditions offer an ideal environment for startups, he says, because you have more time to get a new venture off the ground before the competition catches on.
At last week's the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, Hoffman offered what he calls his "Ten Rules on Entrepreneurship." And if anyone is qualified to come up with such a list, it's this web-savvy wizard who was a founding board member and executive vice president of PayPal and now serves as a partner at venture capital powerhouse Greylock Partners.
Here are Hoffman's top mandates for entrepreneurs:
1. Be disruptive. Ask yourself: "Is this massive and different? It's got to be ten-times different. It's got to be something that changes an industry." Hoffman uses Skype as an example, calling it a disruptive company because, "it removes these very expensive cross barrier phone charges."
2. Aim big. You'll probably wind up plowing the same amount of time into a small business as you will a big one. So, don't be intimidated by your own big ideas, as there are multiple ways of realizing them.
3. Grow your network. Your network includes investors, advisers, employees and customers. With a broad network, you have the ability to make important, global-sized changes.
4. Plan for better or worse. Part of planning is that you might come across something you weren't expecting and you pivot. And if something doesn't work, you must ask yourself: "What is my Plan B?"
5. Maintain flexible persistence. On one hand, the goal is to have a vision and be persistent. On the other hand, flexibility and being able to change based on what your customers want is paramount. "The art is knowing when to be persistent and when to be flexible and how to blend them."
6. Launch early. "Unless you're Steve Jobs, you're most likely partially wrong about what your theory was." So launch early and often. Launching early attracts customer engagement, and it's the customer who's going to tell you what's wrong so you can correct it.
7. Seek honesty. You need friends who will tell you that you have an ugly baby. Keep your aspirations high, but don't drink your own Kool-Aid — all the while leveraging the advice of your friends.
8. Be everywhere. It's important to have a great idea for a product, but it's downright vital to have a wide distribution of it. "You can have a kickass product, but if it doesn't get to millions of people, it's irrelevant."
9. Culture is key. You must get hiring right the first time. While experience is impressive, you'll need people who can adapt and thrive amid volatility — especially in the beginning.
10. Break these rules. The rules of entrepreneurship are not laws of nature. You can break them. What's more, don't listen to all of the rules all of the time.
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