Continuous Learning

In the software development field there’s a concept called continuous deployment which describes a process such that when code is checked into the main code repository, a series of tests are run, and if they all pass, the code is deployed to production immediately. Imagine changing the position of a button on a web application locally and seeing that change in production for thousands of users to use 10 minutes later. That’s continuous deployment.

Now, take the idea of continuous deployment and apply it to the entrepreneurial journey in the learning context. Continuous learning is creating a personal process to learn new things on a regular basis and apply them when applicable. With so many great books, blogs, and articles available combined with different mediums like print, screen, and audio, there are a number of ways to develop a habit of continuous learning. Start with a simple RSS reader or subscribe to receive new blog posts via email. Learn more, faster.

Entrepreneurs need to develop a process for continuous learning and improvement. It’s one of the best investments available.

What else? What are some more thoughts on continuous learning?

Seeking Startup Ideas

Recently a would-be entrepreneur said he wanted to start a company but didn’t have an idea yet. Hmm, I thought, there’s inspiration all around and a limitless number of startup ideas. True, it’s hard to find a seemingly great idea but there are many ideas worth pursuing in fast-growing markets. The key: just start.

Here are a tactics when seeking startup ideas:

  • Read – Start reading for 60 minutes a day. Whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, blogs, articles, etc. it doesn’t matter. What matters that you’re actively soaking up as much information as possible so that the mind can find patterns and trends.
  • Ask – Reach out to your five smartest friends and invite them to lunch. At lunch, ask about their current challenges. Ask about ideas they have for new products. Share your goal of starting a company and get their help.
  • Mind map – Get everything out of your mind down in a mind map. Do one new topic or market daily with at least 25 ideas regardless of their quality. Force yourself to put something down, and do it consistently.

People think entrepreneurs have great ideas that magically appear. Not true. Most come from the little things, like encountering a problem and wanting to solve it. Be methodically and actively seek out inspiration for new startup ideas.

What else? What are some more tactics when seeking startup ideas?

Video of the Week: Bootstrapping a Unicorn Outside of Silicon Valley | Ryan Holmes (Hootsuite)

Our video of the week is Bootstrapping a Unicorn Outside of Silicon Valley | Ryan Holmes (Hootsuite). Enjoy!

From YouTube:
Growing a company from an idea to one of the largest investment raises in Canadian Venture Capital history. Join us as we sit down with Ryan Holmes, the Founder & CEO of Hootsuite. Ryan Holmes founded Hootsuite in 2008, growing the company from a lean startup to a global leader in social media with over 11 million users, including 79 of the Fortune 100 companies. Thought leader, dog lover and serial entrepreneur, Ryan has redefined the face of social media—bringing Twitter, Facebook and other social networks out of the dorm room and into the boardroom. A college drop-out, he started a paintball company and pizza restaurant before founding Invoke Media, the company that developed Hootsuite. Today, Ryan is an authority in technology and business. He writes regularly for publications like Fast Company, Inc, Fortune, and has a column in the Wall Street Journal. He’s also one of LinkedIn’s top 20 most followed Influencers and presents at the world’s top tech conferences. An angel investor and advisor outside of Hootsuite, Ryan supports programs that empower the greater startup community and future generations of entrepreneurs, including his own non-profit initiative, The Next Big Thing.

Build Sales Capacity in Advance

Nakul Mandan has an excellent tweetstorm on the importance of building sales capacity in advance of growth. The idea is that startups get caught up in the here and now and don’t start hiring and training AEs, SDRs, and SEs soon enough for the long term goals.

The solution: plan 24 months in advance. Figure out the sales metrics and model the sales rep ramp.

When the startup is scaling fast, build sales capacity in advance.

The Jungle / Dirt Road / Highway of Startups

Earlier today I was reminded of startup stages being described as “the jungle,” “the dirt road,” and “the highway”.  These names have been around for many years (here’s a post from 2010 on it) and the idea still holds true today. Similar to the concept of pilot it, nail it, and scale it (see 4 Startup Stages in 8 Words), these names are more colorful and memorable.

Let’s look at the jungle, dirt road, and highway stages of a startup:

  • Jungle – Lots of searching. No clear path. Distractions everywhere. Very tough conditions.
  • Dirt Road – A path! Progress. Speed is picking up but lots of bumps in the road. Still figuring things out.
  • Highway – Speed! Smooth sailing. Tremendous momentum. Scaling. Process. Repeatability.

Most startups never make it out of the jungle. The ones that do aren’t guaranteed success but cover a good bit of ground on the dirt road. Finally, a select few make it to the highway and go fast and far.

Welcome to the jungle.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the jungle / dirt road / highway idea?

Characteristics of Successful Atlanta Entrepreneurs

As a continuation to yesterday’s post Why Entrepreneurs Choose Atlanta, the next logical question is “what are some common characteristics of successful Atlanta entrepreneurs?” Of course, the characteristics are all over the place, but within the software startup sector, several attributes stand out. Here are several characteristics of successful Atlanta entrepreneurs:

  • Resilient – Most successful entrepreneurs I know failed at their first idea. Pivoting is more common than expected and Atlanta is no different. Much of the entrepreneurial journey is learning and iterating as fast as possible.
  • Resourceful – The dynamics of the community — including limited risk capital — require more resourcefulness on the part of the entrepreneur. True, money does go further here but that’s more than outweighed by the lack of capital. Yet, a lack of capital is normal and standard for a startup community. Successful entrepreneurs figure out how to succeed regardless of capital.
  • Opinionated – Entrepreneurs need to have strong opinions weakly held. With so many different ideas and opportunities, entrepreneurs without strong opinion suffer and fade away quickly.
  • Confident – Believing when others don’t is something all entrepreneurs have to work through. It’s tough facing constant adversity without being confident in the mission.

Successful Atlanta entrepreneurs have a high locus of control and figure out how to win. When the right team, idea, and market timing come together, amazing things happen.

What else? What are some more characteristics of successful Atlanta entrepreneurs?

Why Entrepreneurs Choose Atlanta

Continuing with yesterday’s post on Why Not More Startup Success Stories, I was asked the question earlier today “Why do entrepreneurs choose Atlanta to build their startup?” The unwritten part of the question is why do they choose Atlanta as opposed to the main place people think of when they think tech startups. Good question.

Thinking about the most successful entrepreneurs I know, I’d bucket them into these four categories:

  • Selected Atlanta Based on Business Potential – A combination of quality talent, excellent lifestyle, low cost of living, and “can do” attitude make Atlanta a great place to build a company. I fall into this bucket and proactively chose Atlanta as I believed (correctly) it to be a strong spot to grow a software company.
  • Biggest Customer in Atlanta – With so many large companies headquartered in Atlanta, there’s tremendous buying power. A number of startups have relocated to Atlanta to be near their largest customer.
  • Raised in Atlanta – Family always has been, and always will be, a major force in choosing a location. Many successful entrepreneurs were raised in the Metro Atlanta region of six million people.
  • Relocated to Atlanta Via Previous Company – A number of talented people moved to Atlanta for a job and started their entrepreneurial journey after they called the city home. This is a very common route.

Whether it’s happenstance or a concerted decision to choose Atlanta for business reasons, there’s a mid-sized entrepreneurial community here that’s growing fast. Now, we need to spread the story and let others know to ChooseATL.

What else? What are some other reasons entrepreneurs start their company in Atlanta?