By Michelle McIntyre
Investor, TED Speaker, startup expert, former Apple evangelist and author of nine books, Guy Kawasaki gave a talk called “The Top 10 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make” at The Startup Conference in Redwood City, Calif., Wednesday. He is currently chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool.
Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.
As a PR and business strategy consultant to many startups, nothing he said shocked or amazed me but his side comments and answers to audience were very funny. He has always had a way of giving business advice in an entertaining and highly digestible fashion.
Here is his list of 10 top entrepreneur mistakes:
Mistake 1 Multiply big numbers by one percent to calculate market size.
Solution: Entrepreneurs should calculate from the bottom up and have realistic expectations.
Mistake 2 Scale too fast.
Solution: “Eat what you kill.”
Mistake 3 Form partnerships, or just focus too much on them.
Solution: Focus on sales. Kawasaki says, “Sales ‘fixes’ everything!”
Mistake 4 Focus on the pitch.
Solution: Focus on the prototype. Code writing software is more important than Microsoft PowerPoint.
Mistake 5 Use too many slides.
Solution: Use the 10-20-30 rule. It is 10 slides or less, 20 minutes in length and no smaller than 30 point type. I agree with this. In fact, I tell clients no more than six slides.
Mistake 6 Make serial progress.
Solution: make “parallel progress.” Startups need to multitask and be flexible instead of deciding that everything must be done in an exact order.
Mistake 7 Try to retain control. It’s a mistake to think that if you own 51% of the company, you can call all of the shots. Most decisions voted on in the board room are decided ahead of time.
Solution: Instead of focusing on how much of pie you have, focus on “making a bigger pie.”
Mistake 8 Use patents for defensibility.
Solution: Use success. He cautioned against mentioning patents more than once in a pitch.
Mistake 9 Hire in your own image.
Solution: Hire to complement. If you are a male founder, look for a female to round out the management team. Diversity is good for business.
Mistake 10 Befriend your investors.
Solution: Simply exceed expectations.
My key takeaway was that early stage startups need to make their top two priorities developing a quality product and building the user base. Nothing else is as important.
Michelle McIntyre, @FromMichelle, is a PR consultant for tech startups, an IBM vet, on the executive team for TEDxSanJoseCA and director with Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators.