In one word: Ashley
Pictured to the right, Ashley, my wife, is holding our first-born son Julian Barry “J.B.” Pierce. J.B. likes to eat, poop, pee and spend time with his Mama. And from day one he has proven to be a risk-seeking, impatient, control freak, an entrepreneur just like his Dad, highlighted by his birth in the front seat of my Toyota Highlander, en route to Rex Hospital in Raleigh, N.C. Yes, for real. He came into this world on own his terms. He was getting impatient, and he was tired of sitting in rush-hour traffic. By popular demand, I’ll write a future blog post regarding his grand entrance.
Supporting “The Leap”
But this post is about why I started etailinsights. The short version is that my wife, Ashley, encouraged me to do it. That was the last push I needed. I am a risk-seeking, impatient, control freak, entrepreneur, and I needed that one final push from her to start my company.
The longer version about why I started etailinsights is covered below, including why you should be like me and start your own company; it has been one of the best leaps I ever took. But, don’t be like me in all ways; have your child in the hospital under the care of trained professionals, please.
Successful Entrepreneurship, Simplified:
Constantly, I’m asked, “Should I start a business?” This question takes on many different forms, but it’s always essentially the same question. “How can I get funding for my business?” Or, “I have XYZ idea-do you think it will work?” Often it’s, “How do I write a business plan?” But the most common is, “How did you start etailinsights?”
These are the common questions, but actually, they are the wrong questions.
The right question is, “Are you out of your freaking mind?”
And the answer to that question is “Yes, most of the time I am.” Yes, for real. I’m pretty crazy. Let’s just state facts.
Or let me take it even one step further- hold one sec, while I go out on a limb….
“Yes, most of the time ‘we are.”
In this case, the “we” pronoun is referring to all successful entrepreneurs. We are all a little (or a lot) crazy. You have to be. Call me crazy, and I’ll reply with “Thank you.” If you aren’t just a tad out of your mind too, then my blog posts are probably annoying and/or nonsensical to you; That’s ok, I simply don’t speak your language.
Also of note, I used the term “successful” before the (tired, abused, and over-used) term “entrepreneur.” Anyone can start anything these days- anyone can call themselves an entrepreneur. It’s sexy. But only a few are successful, and I think that’s why you are reading this blog post. You want to know how to create one of those successful startups, and I’m going to answer the question right now…
Three Requirements To Become a Successful Entrepreneur:
- You are comfortable with risk-taking.
- You found a really painful problem.
- You have solved this really painful problem.
If this over-simplified formula piques your interest, then keep reading because the force is strong within you. You might just be a little bit crazy, like me.
And no, these three things above are NOT everything needed to be the successful captain of your own ship. This formula doesn’t include other necessary factors such as having great mentors and a supportive family (see above), or being blessed (some call this “luck”), not really ever needing to sleep, having AWESOME employees who care about the cause, and many more prerequisites. But I CAN tell you that without all three of the above, your startup WILL fail. And 90% of the reasons that new businesses fail is because they don’t have one or more of the above three requirements.
1) You are comfortable with risk-taking.
Are you able to sit at a $25 minimum blackjack table for hours, with 50% of the money from your checking account on the table-at risk-and still have fun? How about 95%? 100%?
I am. And I have. All successful entrepreneurs have this trait. It is the minimum requirement.
“Must be this tall to ride.”
You must be at a point in your life where you are comfortable laying it all on the line- financially, mentally, and physically- and not have any anxiety about doing so. Assuming the risk/reward rationale makes sense of course.
If you aren’t comfortable “risking it all” then you will fail. You will likely give up too early (almost always the case). Or worse, because you are too nervous, you will make bad decisions (i.e., neglecting to double-down in blackjack when you have 11 and the dealer has 10). You will fail to hire because you’re scared to spend more $$, or you will suffer from paralysis by analysis or many other reasons that I’ve witnessed.
You must be one of those rare people who is COMFORTABLE risking it all. This doesn’t necessarily mean you always gamble. It doesn’t mean you like or need to take risks (adrenaline junkies often = bad businesspeople). It just means when the risk/reward ratio is in your favor, you take the risk, without flinching. No tremble.
Most human beings are not built this way. Anxiety kicks in, fight/flight reflex takes over, and they tremble uncontrollably until they finally flee or fold. The fact that most humans aren’t comfortable with risk is why I typically win at poker (Another blog post? Maybe; let me know if you want to hear about poker).
Yep, when your wife has a baby in the front seat of your car, you have to be calm and get to the hospital as fast as possible, without making any mistakes. Their lives could depend on it.
2) You found a really painful problem
This is much harder. #1 above is simple-either you have it, or you don’t.
Actually, achieving #2 took me 13 years. During that time, I was blessed to be part of many other successful startups, and I also funded some when I was a banker. I also started some little projects too, including an online retail (“etail”) business. But in those 13 years, I couldn’t identify that “really painful problem” … until I joined Bronto.
Bronto, in itself, is an incredible success story. In fact, the co-founder Joe Colopy and Chaz Felix are far more qualified to write this blog post than I. It was a great place to work and learn and shoot Marty Wesley while wining their annual game of Assassin. I referenced earlier that I’ve learned from the best. Joe and Chaz are members of the group I’m proud to call my mentors (even if they don’t agree). Another member of this High Council is Bobby Martin. There are more; I’ll blog in the future about all those responsible for teaching me the ways of The Force.
But back to me (yay!) and my story. Working for the Email Service Provider- Bronto, allowed me to finally stumble upon a real pain in the marketplace. And if you are reading this, you may have done the same thing (double yay!).
My pain point as the head of Business Development at Bronto Software in 2010? There wasn’t a good resource to tell me who all of the online retailers were. The Bronto sales team was forced to become a research team. Reps would hunt for a website that sold products online, then try to figure out where they were located (whose territory), how large they were, what technology they were using, how to contact them, etc., etc. Ouch.
Finally, a real pain! Something that I was willing to pay money for, and in fact at Bronto we did pay people who promised they could help (#fail). But no one could provide what we needed. Then, I asked some of our partner companies how they were solving this problem, and they expressed similar pain. Aha. Yes. At the age of 32, I’d finally found the really painful problem.
3) You have solved this really painful problem
WARNING: Don’t skip #2! It is the most common reason businesses fail. So many inventors start with a “cool product”-something that does something for someone. And it’s cool. But, it’s a product. Not a “solution.” Wait for it…. And then they ask me that same old question, “How did you start etailinsights?”
We know what they really mean: “Darren, how can I make my product successful?”
Obviously, you know by now that I begin by asking them about #1; are they a comfortable risk-taker. If I’m lucky, I can get them to take me to Vegas to prove it (triple yay!).
But #2 is often the sticking point: “Does your product actually cure a pain?” I mean like a REAL pain. Something very painful. Not just a minor annoyance. Is it a huge enough pain that people would spend money on the solution? If so, how much would they spend?
Ok, if that’s the case; let’s talk about #3, your “solution.” Is it built? Can it be built? How will you do it? How much will it cost to build and how long (multiply that x 2)? How much will customers pay for it (multiply that x 0.5)?
We are talking “solutions” here, not “products.” That’s what we built at etailinsights- a real solution to a real problem- and we have hundreds of customers to back that up. We are the leading provider of accurate contact information for Online Retailers. Essentially, if you are serious about selling a solution to the eCommerce Industry, etailinsights is a must-have. Our customers love us. And, we love our customers! They drive the future of our product, we treat them like gods and goddesses, and they take good care of us in return. In fact, three of our former users believed in our solution so much, they joined our company to sell the solution (Trip, Matt, and Jenn). If you want to learn more about etailinsights, drop us a note!
Your Formula for Success:
Our company would have never made it if I didn’t have 1+2+3 first, and that’s what you need too. Then, and only then, should you step into the evaluation phase of how big is the market, how will you go to market, projections, logos, office space, a website, and additional details x 1,000.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, this also is how savvy investors evaluate your pitch...
- The Pain
- The Solution
You need these three things for any investor to take you seriously.
So there you go friends. If you thought I was just another vague blogger who says everything while actually saying nothing, in an attempt to drive web traffic, you were mistaken. But if you like this, and want more, then please stay tuned. In my blog posts, I speak plainly, give quick tips, take risks, and give concrete applicable information.
If you do have 1+2+3 and want to know “How do I get my first 10 customers?”
I’ll write a post about that very topic in the near future. And I may also sprinkle in some real-world topics such as, “Selling T-Shirts on the Street,” or “Don’t Play Poker, Play the Player,” And coming soon by popular demand: “Delivering Your Own Baby @80mph in a Toyota Highlander, During Rush-Hour Traffic.”
And Ashley, if you’re reading this… Thank you, and I love you.