Big ideas

integratesalesDan McGrady provides his feedback about the Ontario Summer Company program. On the surface the program looks like a fantastic program to support students creating companies. The program provides 15-29 year olds a $3000 grant and some basic business consulting to start a company. Dan has applied and been turned down for support to build integrate: On Demand Sales Management. It’s an interesting read about the experience of program administrators as related to software development. 

Dan’s lesson was that these student programs need to focus on teaching what a big idea is:

If your going to teach someone who [sic] to make a company the number one goal should be to help them identify what a good business opportunity is.

Dan links to one of the most important lists of what Sequoia Capital looks for in it’s investments. All entrepreneurs should be asking themselves these questions and evaluating their companies and products. I’m fond of Rich Customers who need Pain Killer solutions in Large Markets. Too often these are overlooked as unimportant, but they help define the type of company.

Sequoia Capital’s Elements of Sustainable Companies

  • Clarity of Purpose
    Summarize the company’s business on the back of a business card.
  • Large Markets
    Address existing markets poised for rapid growth or change. A market on the path to a $1B potential allows for error and time for real margins to develop.
  • Rich Customers
    Target customers who will move fast and pay a premium for a unique offering.
  • Focus
    Customers will only buy a simple product with a singular value proposition.
  • Pain Killers
    Pick the one thing that is of burning importance to the customer then delight them with the solution.
  • Think Differently
    Constantly challenge conventional wisdom. Take the contrarian route. Create novel solutions. Outwit the competition.
  • Team DNA
    A company’s DNA is set in the first 90 days. All team members are the smartest or the most clever in their domain. “A” level founders attract an “A” level team.
  • Agility
    Stealth and speed will usually help beat-out large companies.
  • Frugality
    Focus on spending on what’s critical. Spend only on the priorities and maximize profitability.
  • Inferno
    Start with only a little money. It forces discipline and focus. A huge market with customers yearning for a product developed by great engineers requires very little firepower.

4 thoughts on “Big ideas”

  1. I actually did this program, almost 15 years ago. (Feeling old.)<br />
    <br />
    I remember being skeptical that I would be accepted, and putting so little effort into my application that my proposal was essentially &quot;I am a computer programmer. Give me $3000 and I will buy a new laptop and attempt to find clients.&quot;<br />
    <br />
    This completely abstract notion landed 16 year old Pete a brand new 486DX/100 (w/4 megs ram! couldn't afford the $1200 16 meg module) and I proceeded to… well, I didn't do anything.<br />
    <br />
    I didn't hear from the bank again, and I actually thought my grandmother had paid off my loan until 12 years later, I suddenly got a call from some collections officer that I had to pay immediately or I'd have a lien placed against me.<br />
    <br />
    I told her that I didn't have $3000 handy, and instead of arguing, she suggested that if I paid $600 immediately, she would cut me a deal. (I had satisfied myself that I wasn't being scammed.)<br />
    <br />
    And so it came to pass! I guess merely mentioning programming doesn't cut it, anymore.

  2. I actually did this program, almost 15 years ago. (Feeling old.)

    I remember being skeptical that I would be accepted, and putting so little effort into my application that my proposal was essentially “I am a computer programmer. Give me $3000 and I will buy a new laptop and attempt to find clients.”

    This completely abstract notion landed 16 year old Pete a brand new 486DX/100 (w/4 megs ram! couldn’t afford the $1200 16 meg module) and I proceeded to… well, I didn’t do anything.

    I didn’t hear from the bank again, and I actually thought my grandmother had paid off my loan until 12 years later, I suddenly got a call from some collections officer that I had to pay immediately or I’d have a lien placed against me.

    I told her that I didn’t have $3000 handy, and instead of arguing, she suggested that if I paid $600 immediately, she would cut me a deal. (I had satisfied myself that I wasn’t being scammed.)

    And so it came to pass! I guess merely mentioning programming doesn’t cut it, anymore.

  3. I'd suspect the investor checklist might need to be modified to include the category, Security. <br />
    <br />
    Too many companies, whether they're in the IT field or something completely unrelated like a supermarket chain, don't pay attention to this until its too late. Given that we're living in an age when unscrupulous individuals can extract literally millions of customer records with a few keystrokes — and that such a breach can easily bring down small businesses and even much larger organizations through legal bills and fines, security needs to be part of every business plan. <br />
    <br />
    There are some interesting examples of the consequences of businesses neglecting security in these articles <a href="http://www.pcis.com/web/vvblog.nsf/dx/would-you-give-me-your-password-for-a-candy&quot; target="_blank">here</a><br />
    and <a href="http://www.pcis.com/web/vvblog.nsf/dx/06122008033044PMVVIUEJ.htm&quot; target="_blank">here</a>

  4. I’d suspect the investor checklist might need to be modified to include the category, Security.

    Too many companies, whether they’re in the IT field or something completely unrelated like a supermarket chain, don’t pay attention to this until its too late. Given that we’re living in an age when unscrupulous individuals can extract literally millions of customer records with a few keystrokes — and that such a breach can easily bring down small businesses and even much larger organizations through legal bills and fines, security needs to be part of every business plan.

    There are some interesting examples of the consequences of businesses neglecting security in these articles here
    and here

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