Startup: An Insider's Guide to Launching and Running a Business

Startup: An Insider’s Guide to Launching and Running a Business

Copyright © 2011 by Kevin Ready

This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. Exempted from this legal reservation are brief excerpts in connection with reviews or scholarly analysis or material supplied specifically for the purpose of being entered and executed on a computer system, for exclusive use by the purchaser of the work. Duplication of this publication or parts thereof is permitted only under the provisions of the Copyright Law of the Publisher’s location, in its current version, and permission for use must always be obtained from Springer. Permissions for use may be obtained through RightsLink at the Copyright Clearance Center. Violations are liable to prosecution under the respective Copyright Law.

ISBN-13 (pbk): 978-1-4302-4218-5

ISBN-13 (electronic): 978-1-4302-4220-8

Trademarked names, logos, and images may appear in this book. Rather than use a trademark symbol with every occurrence of a trademarked name, logo, or image we use the names, logos, and images only in an editorial fashion and to the benefit of the trademark owner, with no intention of infringement of the trademark.

The use in this publication of trade names, trademarks, service marks, and similar terms, even if they are not identified as such, is not to be taken as an expression of opinion as to whether or not they are subject to proprietary rights.
While the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication, neither the authors nor the editors nor the publisher can accept any legal responsibility for any errors or omissions that may be made. The publisher makes no warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein.

President and Publisher: Paul Manning
      Lead Editor: Jeff Olson
      Editorial Board: Steve Anglin, Mark Beckner, Ewan Buckingham, Gary Cornell,
            Morgan Ertel, Jonathan Gennick, Jonathan Hassell, Robert Hutchinson,
            Michelle Lowman, James Markham, Matthew Moodie, Jeff Olson, Jeffrey
            Pepper, Douglas Pundick, Ben Renow-Clarke, Dominic Shakeshaft, Gwenan
            Spearing, Matt Wade, Tom Welsh
      Editorial Assistant: Rita Fernando
      Copy Editor: Damon Larson
      Compositor: Apress Production
      Indexer: BIM Indexing & Proofreading Services
      Cover Designer: Anna Ishchenko

Distributed to the book trade worldwide by Springer Science+Business Media New York, 233 Spring Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10013. Phone 1-800-SPRINGER, fax (201) 348-4505, e-mail
[email protected]
, or visit
www.springeronline.com
.

For information on translations, please e-mail
[email protected]
, or visit
www.apress.com
.

Apress and friends of ED books may be purchased in bulk for academic, corporate, or promotional use. eBook versions and licenses are also available for most titles. For more information, reference our Special Bulk Sales–eBook Licensing web page at
www.apress.com/bulk-sales
.

TO KAZUKO, CONNOR, MITCHEL, MAE, AND
RAYMOND

Contents

About the Author
Acknowledgments
Preface
Chapter 1:
Setting the Stage
Chapter 2:
Core Lessons
Chapter 3:
Marketing
Chapter 4:
Building a Team
Chapter 5:
Communication Matters
Chapter 6:
Strategic Thinking
Chapter 7:
Exiting Your Business
Index

About the Author

Kevin Ready
loves building things and helping people to build things. Over the last 20 years, he has built, run, consulted for, and advised numerous startups and businesses. For him, there is nothing more interesting than understanding business models and the problems that entrepreneurs come up against in their markets. As he says often, “It is my work and my play. I never get tired of it.”

Born into a engineering family, Ready started his first company right out of college. While the venture was a success, he saw the limitations to scaling the business. As the Internet era took shape, he joined the “tech wave” through the late 1990s, starting several online businesses. Years before Facebook, he was a founder of a social networking site with nearly one million users. Later, he and a partner spun off and sold a digital mapping business, then moved on to become an online software and media retail business that merged with a larger rival in 2008. That same year, he became a partner at an online real estate business that was in crisis mode. By applying the lessons presented in this book, he helped turn the business around. Just 13 months later, it was acquired by a company in the newspaper industry. That business—where he still works as technical director and strategist—now brings in millions of dollars of profit per year and touches over 4 million consumers monthly.

In addition to his entrepreneurial ventures, he has worked in engineering positions at Dell Computer and Toshiba, and as an executive at Classified Ventures, LLC.

Acknowledgments

Many thanks to those people that have inspired my work as an entrepreneur, and to those who freely gave of their time and knowledge to assist me in putting this book together.

I especially appreciate the time I spent with my friend Joseph Wright, his father Wayne Wright, Sr., and their family during my teenage years. Observing this wonderfully entrepreneurial family, I decided that business building was a lifestyle choice worth emulating.

Special thanks to Dr. Fernando Macias, Dr. Ken Price, George Mora, and Daniel Castro, for their substantial investments of time to assist me with this manuscript

Also great thanks to Jeff Olson, my editor from Apress. Your persistence and patience are the difference that made the difference.

Preface

What we
do
is a function of what we know, and what we have experienced and come to understand. As entrepreneurs, we encounter myriad difficult, novel, and challenging situations that
normal
people will never be faced with, and we build up a library of such experiences over time. In the entrepreneurial world, this is sometimes aptly described as
scar tissue
, and it is with some level of respect and admiration that we say that somebody has a lot of it. Some of these experiences and lessons stand out above the others and grow to serve as a basis for the entrepreneur’s decision-making ever after. This book is about scar tissue, about lessons learned, and about how we can use those lessons to make business less painful, less difficult, and more profitable.

A great interest of mine is helping motivated people to start their own businesses. I especially enjoy working with people who are absolutely
excellent
at something. These are folks that have an area of excellence that they have developed over many years. They have realized that they could provide greater value for themselves and their families if they focus all of their time and energy on exercising that area of excellence as a business, in the form of a startup. This is a great leap, and it is one of the most exciting moves you can make. What most people find, however, is that their area of excellence alone is not enough to carry them through the challenge of wrapping a business around it. Their core skill set (programming, DNA analysis, etc.) needs to be mated with new business skills to make it all work.

As an example, my friend John (who is a highly skilled PhD microbiologist) recently started his own genetics company. He knows DNA sequencing up and down; he has been doing it for years. It was easy for him to imagine leaving the university research environment and applying his skills for his own customers. It was so easy to imagine, in fact, that John actually quit his university research
job, took out a business loan, bought a lab full of equipment, and is now on his own—and is realizing at a visceral level that he
must
quickly become excellent at a long list of entrepreneurial skills that he has never thought about before. As of the writing of this preface, he has all of the trappings of a business, except he has no customers yet! This book is for John, and any other people with a robust competency and excellence in their specialties who want to make a business out of it.

I have spent a lot of time helping people like John. In consulting with them, my primary objective is to help them reframe their understanding in some very particular ways. A
reframe
is a change in the aggregate understanding we have of a situation or process—a change in the perspective we have on it. An expert and a novice can look at the same situation and come to very different conclusions about what it means. This is true for everything that we do in life. In business, there are a few fundamental, overarching, and important reframes that, once understood, empower you to perform at a higher level—with more efficiency and a greater capability for your business to survive. This book is, at its core, a compendium of critical reframes for the entrepreneur.

So How Did I Become an Entrepreneur?

After years of education, every college graduate is faced with the same question: “What do I want to do?” When I was a nearing the end of college, I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I had grown up in an engineering family. I studied engineering in school and I wanted to build a tech business, but I did not want to go to business school to learn how. My decision was to do a “real-world” MBA program of my own construction—a starter business. I would find a business that had a low barrier to entry (since I did not have any money) and would leverage whatever skills I had. I wanted to construct a real-life laboratory that would expose me to the ins and outs of the full-time, man-in-charge entrepreneurial experience. I called this plan that I was setting up for myself “Mailroom to the Board Room.” I wanted to start at the lowest and most basic form of work possible, and build for myself a set of experiences in which I could learn the lessons needed to grow from the simplest kind of business to running multi-million-dollar corporations.

I started with a $5,000 loan and a simple desire to start my own business. Two decades later, I have been through three successful corporate transactions—the latest of which is now reaching nearly 5 million customers per month.

Along the way I did the following:

 
  • Opened a construction business, learning how to run a startup the hard way: by doing it.
  • Moved on to building an Internet services company, and building our own data center from scratch.
  • Launched a social networking business with nearly 1 million users, years before Facebook.
  • Created a digital mapping data company, earned a portfolio of
    Fortune
    500 customers, and sold the business to private equity investors.
  • Was a partner in an online retail business, eventually merging with a larger competitor.
  • Joined a 50-person startup company—with the challenging objective to turn it around and get it acquired. In just one year we had rebuilt the brand and earned an acquisition by a larger competitor. We had phenomenal growth, and soon became the fourth-largest apartment real estate web site in the United States.
  • Consulted for and helped entrepreneurs with startups in countries all over the world.

This book shares some of what I have learned along the way.

How to Read This Book

This book is organized into chapters that cover the most important building blocks of any startup: Setting the Stage, Core Lessons, Marketing, Building a Team, Communication Matters, Strategic Thinking, and Exiting Your Business.

The chapters themselves are composed of individual, discrete lessons that stand alone and can be read independent of the other parts of the chapter. Several of my favorite books follow this standalone format, and I have followed that paradigm here. The compact size of each section is deliberate in that each is a distillation of one or two standalone concepts from my entrepreneurial experience. I believe that your ability to understand and remember these ideas
is best supported by getting to the point quickly, and keeping the volume of text to a minimum.

Other books

Wait For the Dawn by Jess Foley
I Never Had It Made by Jackie Robinson
Concert of Ghosts by Campbell Armstrong
Zeely by Virginia Hamilton
Shared Between Them by Korey Mae Johnson
The Sleeping World by Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes
Seduce Me by Cheryl Holt
Dom Fever (Devlin Black #2) by Alaska Angelini
Tremor by Patrick Carman