10 things I wished I knew when I first became an entrepreneur

“This defines entrepreneur and entrepreneurship?—?the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” – Peter F. Drucker

Credit: Pixbay

I embarked on a 30 day blogging challenge to restore my passion for writing (more about it here)Please sign up to my newsletter to receive the latest updates. This was day thirteen. I skipped two days!

There’s no recipe for success in entrepreneurship, but tips from someone who has been successful can make the journey more fruitful and less lonely.

I chose to translate a post by Kobi Samboursky, serial entrepreneur and founding partner of Glilot Capital, from Hebrew published in TheMarker. I’ve met Kobi several years ago, and have a ton of respect for him and his approach and found his advice very compelling.

Prior to founding Glilot, Kobi founded and successfully exited several technology companies including Lamda Communication Networks (acquired by NICE Systems) and iWeb Technologies (acquired by a Japanese consortium). He was a member of the founding team of Infogear Technologies, the creator of the original iPhone (acquired by Cisco).

While the tech industry changed a lot in the past 20 years, the challenges remained similar.

Here are the 10 things Kobi wished he knew when he first became an entrepreneur (written in first person)

1. Don’t do it alone

After my studies (and mandatory military service) I was determined to start his own company. I felt like I had all the ingredients: strong tech background, management experience and even a business degree. I didn’t think I needed a partner. After all, what else can they add?

After a few months, I gave up and decided to call it quits. It’s possible that the idea was simply not good enough, but I learned that entrepreneurship is a team effort. In every success I was involved in, there was a team. Not too many partners, 2 or 3 is enough. Succeeding with a startup is a genuinely hard thing to do, but with the right partner, the chances of success significantly increase. Don’t look for someone like you, look for someone who completes you.

2. There is no single recipe for success

Many successful entrepreneurs share their recipes for success in the form of Dos and Don’ts. It’s always advisable to read those in the beginning of the road, but don’t expect them, as talented as they are, to set YOUR path. This is true for this post as well. You can raise money from VCs and succeed and can avoid raising money at all and succeed. You can create a great company based on a superb tech concept, and you can equally do it based on a superb business concept. At the end of the day, you determine your own path, no one is really offering a shortcut.

3. Find someone to consult with ( 1 or 2, but not too many!)

I admit this is something I didn’t do well as a new entrepreneur. It takes a lot of confidence to expose all your fears to someone. Sharing your fears and insecurities makes them a bit more real. But does it mean that you don’t believe in the company enough, or in yourself? With time I learned that confiding in someone is one of the most important things you can do as an entrepreneur. Every founder knows that there are risks and pitfalls. It’s always advised to find someone who went through a similar path and can share their own experience. It’s not always going to be the right path, but it will often be good to learn about it.

Too many advisors on the other hand, will make it hard for you to make decisions. Find one or two trusted advisors or mentors and stick with them. Unfortunately, the term ‘mentor’ is being used very loosely these days, and some ‘mentors’ can cause more damage than benefit.

4. Be committed (and know how to ask for the same from others

One thing that connects all the success stories is total commitment by the founders. The entrepreneurs may feel that their entire world and future depends on the success of the company. From experience, entrepreneurs who “try entrepreneurship” because it looks exciting or interesting, will struggle to succeed. That’s one of the reason that founders who come from a less ‘well off’ financial background have an advantage. They just must succeed, they have no choice. The commitment has to be contagious?—?partners, investors, employees?—?everyone needs to believe in the company and be fully committed.

5. Your family is not less important than your company

Your career is not disconnected from your personal life. With time, the two are clearly connected. Founders have to find the right balance between home, family and the business, otherwise it’s hard to keep it all together. Don’t be mistaken, your commitment to the company is significant, but at the same breath you must find the balance with family/personal life (everyone’s circumstances are different). As a young dad, I tried to find time for lunch with my daughters, find time to call and say goodbye from the hotel while traveling. The family is ultimately the real reason for all this effort, they are the important part of the picture.

6. Focus on your customers. Ignore the noise.

I recall a large round we did with my first startup. It was a significant investment, with a big name international VC. My name, and the company’s name was in the papers/news and the feeling, one must admit, was excellent. In the course of the company’s lifetime, there are times like these?—?big raises, media appearances, major announcements, etc etc. Don’t let these things confuse you.

You can track down some of these headlines shouting about “successes” and massive fundraising rounds, but shortly after read that the companies ended up shutting down. At the end of the day, there’s only one important thing?—?your customers. They need to be happy, the need to buy, and the more the merrier. Focus on sales, and your chances of success will grow exponentially.

7. Create the DNA of a winning organisation

This is one of those lines that looked stupid to me 20 years ago. What does it even mean, company DNA? every company has its own characteristics. How customer oriented is it? how hungry is it? how flexible and adaptable is it?

These qualities and capabilities are built in the first one or two years of the the company, by the founding team. This represents the DNA of the company and it’s very hard to change it later one. If you do it right, you’ll enjoy the fruits of this effort for years to come.

8. Build a long term plan, but don’t take it too seriously

In my first company, one of the investors asked for a detailed business plan. We wanted to do the most professional job we could, so we hired experts and spent months working on a plan. It was the summer of 1999. Shortly after came the .com bust and we tossed the plan in the garbage. It’s very important to plan ahead, but we live in a very dynamic world. Don’t fall in love with long-term plans because they are likely to change. Moreover, in the middle and long term, if you plans don’t change, you’re probably doing something wrong, so check again. It’s called being agile, a nice word that means quickly where the world is going, and change with it. This is one of the advantages of the Israeli culture…

9. You can count on one thing, there WILL be hard days

When people look at a successful entrepreneur they tend to romanticise it and assume it was easy for them because they are very talented, it was a great idea, they’ve had a lot of luck, etc.

Every success story I know was very far from that. It had lots of hard days and sleepless nights. If there’s one thing you can be sure of, is that there will be very difficult days. In fact, one of the important thing you should do is build an organisation that knows how to survive hard days. Any org can survive good days.

10. It’s a long road, enjoy the journey

In the first year of my first company, I worked like a maniac. Since it was my company, I felt like I had to work the hardest. There’s some truth to it, a startup team has to work hard to succeed, but you should also know not to exaggerate. It’s a marathon, not a 100 meter sprint. You have to find the balance, and mostly enjoy the journey. After two decades, I can say I work hard, but without enjoying the road I travel, it would be impossible to keep doing it.

Eze Vidra

Eze is managing partner of Remagine Ventures, a seed fund investing in ambitious founders at the intersection of tech, media, data and commerce. We are backed by some of the world's leading media companies. I'm a former general partner at google ventures, head of Google for Entrepreneurs in Europe and founding head of Campus London, Google's first physical hub for startups. I'm also the founder of Techbikers, a non-profit bringing together the startup ecosystem on cycling challenges in support of Room to Read. Since inception in 2012 we've built 8 schools and 31 libraries in the developing world.