In the fall of 1977, the aspiring Harvard varsity basketball players used to play pickup games every afternoon. All of us were vying for the limited spots on the team. The competition was fierce. I remember one not particularly athletic guy, less of a thoroughbred and more of workhorse, a Clydesdale. I did not see him making the team, but Charlie Baker surprised us. He not only made the team, but turned out to be a terrific teammate.
Governor Baker’s challenges now are much bigger and more significant, but the same attributes he showed back then — a hard worker who knows his limits, a guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously, but is still comfortable being an enforcer when needed — have never left him. Read More »
In 2013, I wrote a light piece for Forbes about the “Six Whopping Lies Told About Entrepreneurs” but in hindsight I left out the biggest myth of all about entrepreneurship itself. The single most overrated, and yet common, belief about entrepreneurship is that the idea is paramount.
Yes, an idea is necessary, but it is so much less important than the discipline and process with which the idea is pursued. And, interestingly, all of these are even less important than the quality of the founding team.
The belief that the idea is important becomes invalidated when you work with successful entrepreneurs and begin to see a common pattern emerge: how an original idea morphs and evolves over time as the team does primary market research and starts to focus on customer needs, rather than their initial eureka moment. This observation is borne out in recent research by Professor Matt Marx of MIT, summarized in “Shooting for Startup Success? Take a Detour,” showing that for successful entrepreneurs, the idea they originally started out with is rarely the same as what they ended up succeeding with.
The idea of a better search engine wasn’t novel before Google got started; its value creation was all in the high-quality execution. Similarly, the concept of an electric car was not new when Elon Musk started Tesla, yet it has experienced unprecedented success while others before and since have failed. Likewise for the smartphone and Apple.
Valuing a company is always a mix of science and art, especially for startups. Historically the science has been pretty simple: Find comparable companies and do a multiple of earnings or revenue.
However, three drivers of startup valuation have emerged that are changing the game. “Acquihire,” is the act of buying out a company for the skills and expertise of its staff. It has become so well-known that it is even listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. When Facebook buys a company like Hot Potato, it’s not for the revenue stream or products — it’s for the employees.
Wow. Imagine being invited to moderate a free-form discussion with the people who lived out the book “Bringing Down the House” and the movie “21.” It doesn’t get any better than this.
At Xconomy’s XSITE conference, I had the honor of moderating a reunion panel of the MIT Blackjack Team with two of the original members (Bill Kaplan and Jon Hirschtick) and two (Neelan Choksi and Semyon Dukach) who reconstituted the team in 1992. The team is known for its sophisticated card-counting techniques that outsmarted many casinos during the 1980s and 1990s.
As more people aspire to become entrepreneurs, it is important to dispel many of the misperceptions about this species. Here are six big ones that even some entrepreneurs believe:
1. They are the smartest and most high achieving people in the room: They certainly weren’t growing up. It is highly unlikely they were the valedictorians of their classes in college. As one successful entrepreneur recently said to me, “If I had a 4.0 at graduation, it stood for the number of parties I went to the night before rather than my GPA.” Entrepreneurs don’t typically try to please other people; rather, they find something that deeply fascinates them and then hyper-focus on that particular opportunity. Hence, the high dropout rates. Case study: Steve Jobs