Lessons Learned from 2017 E145

I just wrapped up my class on technology entrepreneurship (E145) here at Stanford for Winter quarter 2017. Here’s the final email I sent to the students.

Dear E145 students,

I took some notes on the lessons learned that the afternoon class presented today and thought I’d share them with you all. I did a small amount of editing but hopefully captured your meaning.

E145 Takeaways:

  • Blazing your own path – there are different ways to build a successful venture
  • Retaining focus vs. pivoting to new opportunities when necessary
  • Maximizing competitive advantage within Team
  • Difficulty and necessity of pretotyping
  • Adapting to sometimes conflicting feedback
  • Team / Product fit is important
  • Getting outside of the bubble
  • “Pretotyping” is valuable in many contexts
  • Challenges in contacting businesses and convincing them of our potential
  • Getting everyone on board with a decision to pivot/expand
  • Entrepreneurship requires resilience
  • The more adaptable our team was to new information the better
  • Making decisions as a team can be difficult
  • Confidence in starting a company in the future
  • How to work with a team
  • How to sort through ideas
  • How to get out of the building
  • Getting the first person perspective from Konstantin Guericke from LinkedIn and Toby from DoorDash
  • Availability of the mentors and guest speakers
  • Case studies were great for giving us the feeling that if you work hard and make good decisions then you can become successful
  • Being concise with how you explain your idea and not just dumping all of the information you have. Rather, let the other person ask questions.
  • The importance of marketing yourself, your company and your brand
  • Importance of persuading other people that your idea is worthwhile
  • Importance of pretotyping methodology
  • Speed can contribute towards entrepreneurial success
  • I did not have the experience of getting into the field with complete strangers to survey a product
  • How to do market analysis
  • Fast-paced pivoting – how to make very rapid pivots/decisions
  • The idea that consumers can drive the product design decisions was new to me.
  • Startups are hard – that means you should get started now
  • There are lots of ways to get involved as an entrepreneur – lawyer, developer, marketer, etc.
  • Entrepreneurial processes can be taught
  • Competitive edge doesn’t have to be specific to IP
  • Lots of people want to help
  • Pivoting is not scary
  • Pretotyping – experiential learning
  • Market sizing – top down and bottom up
  • Learning how to make a great elevator pitch and email pitch
  • What’s in your mind matters little if it does not reach and penetrate their mind
  • Benefits of bootstrapping vs. raising money
  • Being different is important
  • Having a good, compelling and believable story
  • The pre-launch is the most important part of the launch (marketing)
  • Friendly SEO and B2B marketing tips
  • Reward success and failure, punish inaction.
  • How to actually come up with pretotyping experiments
  • Product market fit is really important
  • Lots of customer interviews
  • Students don’t have much insight into B2B
  • Pretotype – objective and effective, minimum viable product, minimize effort, maximize experimental results
  • Be Proactive – talk to guest speakers, build relationships, develop your OAP
  • Emotional rollercoaster in founding a startup
  • Team dynamics are important
  • Long haul – one challenge after another, just tackle them one at a time.

Glad to see you all learned so many important lessons from the class! Thanks for all your hard work and great energy this quarter! Really impressive group!

Chuck Eesley

p.s. I was asked this afternoon about career advice and social advice from the perspective of your age. On career advice I basically said to work on a startup if it’s an idea you can’t imagine not working on, otherwise work for another company and with teammates that you honestly admire. I also replied that you should work hard while you’re young and have more energy. The only thing I’d add here is to try to only work with people who you truly respect and admire as their work habits will rub off on you over time. On social life I replied that I would focus on building long-term/deeper friendships with a smaller number of people and that in terms of relationships, you have to invest in them as you get out what you put into them. You will become more like your 2-5 closest friends over time, so choose them wisely. The only thing I’d add is to try to find a partner in life who you admire in terms of their personal characteristics (warmth, niceness, honesty, reliability, all the things we discussed at the end of the class) as it is hard to change these and you will be influenced in your personal development by the person you marry more than anyone else. Remember to find someone who complements you and who you respect and would like to become more like them over time (most likely you will). I’m very lucky as I married someone who is a much kinder, warmer person whose strengths complements my weaknesses and who I respect very much. It’s not easy being the spouse of an entrepreneur (or academic)! I hope each of you is just as lucky as I’ve been in life!

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