20 years 20 mistakes i've made as an entrepreneur

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I was asked last week to speak in a class at MIT on entrepreneurship. Rather than a self congratulatory parade through past products and companies that I’m most proud of, I gave the talk that I wished someone had given when I was a student 20 years ago at HBS taking a course on entrepreneurship. In that course I remember meeting Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin who came in to give us his simple self-aggrandizing recipe for success (passion + persistence, bla bla bla). It’s humble to talk about your mistakes, but hopefully more useful. And slightly cathartic…


  • 1. 20 years 20 important mistakes Ive made as an entrepreneur A presentation to the MIT Media Lab Ventures Class, 2/18/10 David Rosedrose@media.mit.edudrose@vitality.net

2. Dont sell the right bike, Sell the bikes in the basement 3. You your company Commitment is critical. Obsession may be regrettable. 4. Select your customers carefully Museums, educational publishers, and toy companies have little spending power. Mindstorms Enchanted Objects 5. Ignore 90% of potential opportunities Prioritize low-hanging fruit that ripen quickly 6. Babson Dont confuse a clear view with a short distance Vision is easy, market timing is the challenge 7. Starve together. Feast together. 8. Listen to early customers Dont be afraid to throw out the bplan 9. How can the web help people tell stories with pictures, and co-create photo albums? 10. Create Construct Pholios based around a life event, wedding, birthday party, trip to Europe or just a collection of pictures of old school friends Personalize Follow an easy-to-use process to build well- designed personal, customized area to share stories Communicate Stay in touch with family and friends Collaborate Add captions, thought balloons and sound effects Protect Password-protect or make public Organize and Archive Sort, categorize and preserve 11. Dont just work on the product Your job is to make 4 bridges meetTeamProduct Customers Investors 12. Site X-ray: visualizing online traffic patterns on ecommerce sites 13. What if connectivity and computation could be baked into any object? 14. We envision that the architectural spaces we inhabit will become an interface between humans and online digital information. We have been designing ambient information displays to explore the use of kinetic physical objects to present information at the periphery of human perception. 15. Press and sales may be inversely proportional Novelty generates headlines. Incrementalism makes an easy buying decision. 16. Fishing 17. Fishing 18. Fishing 19. Ambient Channel Line-Up Preview - Spring 2004Finance Travel OutdoorsSportsMessaging NewsEnterpriseOtherShoppingDOW Traffic Weather GameEmail Election SalesWeb TrafficeBay CongestionForecastScore Waiting PollsTrendsAuctions FTSECommute Ski TeamIM BuddyOpinionCustomer Online Wedding TimeStandings StatusPollssatisfaction Transactions Registry NASDAQFrequentSurfGameMobile plan NewsFuturesInventoryHomeland Flyer Miles Countdown minutesLevels Security My PortfolioSailing Betting MeetingProfit OddsCountdownMargins BankAir Quality Blogshares EmployeeDeveloper* BalanceUtilization Credit Card Pollen Competition Balance ForecastA single pixel browser is only interesting at MIT Net Worth GolfYou can own one idea in peoples mindsAmbient Devices CONFIDENTIAL 20. Ambient Umbrella 21. Compensation isnt about the money, Pay your best people more than you 22. Beware of group-think If everyone on your team likes it, expand the circle. ambient 23. Ambient Dashboard ambient 24. Smart-swappable faces. Insertion instantly reprograms the device.ambient 25. Startups shouldnt partner with startupsWeather Wizard ambient 26. Energy Joule Startups shouldnt partner with startups 27. 5-Day Forecaster 28. LG Refrigerator Exclusivity is a type of currency It can beget larger orders, marketing support, ... ambient 29. Ambient Bus Pole Temper your entrepreneurial optimism articulating risks garners credibilityambient 30. Your board is not your strategy team Exceeding expectations may shorten your lifespan 31. CEO 1.0 cannot co-exist with CEO 2.0 32. Persona: Jill, age 34 VITALITY Lifestyle: Working mother, travels often for workFlower Power Motivators: Fashion, style, convenienceCondition: DepressionPrescribed: Cymbalta (Lilly) For Jill the Flower Pillbox lets her manage her depression with security and ease. The stylish circular case holds a weeks worth of pills. She puts the Flower night-light discretely in her bathroom. Each filled pedal represents a compliant day of the week. It provides Jill and her husband peace of mind each day that she is taking important steps to improve her condition. Dont design the right product for the customerVITALITY VITALITY INC. 2005 PATENTS PENDING 33. Persona:Mel, age 72 VITALITY Lifestyle:Sedentary, retired Construction Manager,Match Book Motivators:Condition:Coupons and RebatesHypercholesterolemia, HypertensionPrescribed: Lipitor (Pfizer), Toprol-XL (AstraZeneca) Nowadays Mel is managing heart disease, not ironworkers. At the last office visit his physician gave him a handsome new smart pillbox to manage his once a day Statin and Antihypertensive pills in a consistent, convenient way. Each Sunday morning Mel loads it upat the end of each month he receives coupons for being compliant. He values the coupons because they offset his out of pocket cost. He has already saved $15 since Dont design the right product for the customer starting on the program. He knows that if he keeps his medication compliance over 75% for 6 months, he will receive a reward bonus for $20 in the mail.VITALITY VITALITY INC. 2005 PATENTS PENDING 34. instead, design the right product for the channel 35. 6 months of GlowCaps data shows over 95% adherence.Now data streams in daily. We know exactly which people are taking their medication when. Here each box is one day.Rows are people, columns are days. Shades of green show when medication was taken relative to dose times. Glyphsrepresent reminder calls. Pink indicates a missed dose. These results far exceed our expectation. 36. Invert the sequence develop final product > get paid by a customer > promote > launch 37. Attribution is a currency Private label deals often reduce risk and accelerate adoption 38. Simplify until is hurts Try to fall out of love quickly with your favorite ideas 39. 43 40. Oscillation between poles is healthy Design TeachMentor Fund RaiseFundMentored Learn drose@media.mi Critique 41. Dont tell your girlfriend, spouse, family, friends that youre on the verge of a deal. ...until the funds are wired into your account 42. Connected Syringes Dont stop sketching Looks like a high-tech sunglasses caseSketching doesnt defocus your engineering team Insulated case slides open to expose syringes Glows, vibrates, and plays ring tones to subtlyget your attention Wireless connection to pharmacy and caregivers Distributed by specialty pharmacy as part ofadherence programs 43. Salt Sentinel Dispenses salt and grinds pepper 360 degree camera uploads images to offshore nutritionist for realtime analysis Mini-projector displays information adjacent to each item: calories against a budget, ecological footprint, transportation modality. Press the i for more information. 44. Spirometer Kazoo Makes spirometry fun using sound andprojection Spirograph projection shows visualfeedback to anticipate an asthma attack Wireless connection to the web permitsrealtime data analysis and graphing onsmart phone. 45. 20 years 20 important mistakes David Rose drose@media.mit.edu drose@vitality.net