I've called myself an entrepreneur for over 10 years now. From tech to nonprofits to solo biz to higher ed ventures - I've seen (what feels like) all of it.
And while we all call ourselves entrepreneurs, the differences between the tech startup world and the different entrepreneurial ventures I've been part of
Which means there's a lot for those of us in the online world to learn from how they do things in the Valley. These are the biggest lessons I've brought with me from the Valley to the online world:
Fail fast and learn from that failure.
We talk a lot in the online world about celebrating failure as being inevitable on the way to success. And I agree - you will fail. But what we sometimes miss in the online world is that it isn't just about failing for the sake of failing in order to get it out of the way - it's actually about failing as fast as you can so you can LEARN from the failure and move on smarter.
It's ok to say you want something, and it's ok to work really, really hard to make that thing happen.
Self care is a huge topic in the online entrepreneurial world, and I get it. When I was in tech I was burned out and miserable. I definitely needed more self care. But just like you can ignore self care and work too hard, I believe you can take self care too hard and never get around to working hard.
Building a business takes work. Hard work. Don't be afraid to work hard. There are seasons of hustle and seasons of recovery and both are important.
Your first customers are everything. Treat them like royalty.
This one's self-explanatory: your first customers are everything. Treat the like royalty and they'll be loyal to you forever. Learn from them, ask them what they want, and never forget they were there for you first.
Diversity is best: women in tech, men online.
The tech world has a well-documented diversity problem, including a serious lack of women. The best tech companies are very serious about correcting this problem, and not just to appear politically correct. They're trying to correct this problem because it's been proven over and over again that diverse companies and diverse ventures perform better than those without much diversity.
I've noticed an opposite phenomenon in the online space: the women tend to only work with women. Part of me gets it: we're told to niche down and lots of us choose to serve women, and therefore our businesses become women-centered. But I see it go too far as well: I see women who don't want to hire or work with men because they're intimidated or don't think men understand their business or a million other things.
This is the reverse diversity as the tech world's dealing with, and you're losing valuable perspective if you're not working with me (even if your customers are women).
Keep innovating or die.
The best tech ventures are always trying something new. Think about it: love it or hate it Facebook's always doing something to its algorithm in order to stay relevant. Same for the other social networks. This isn't by mistake: Silicon Valley knows that a company is only as good as its latest idea.
In the online world this means if you have one great launch or one successful product, don't assume it will stay that way. Keep listening to your customers, keep listening to your gut, and keep experimenting.
Entrepreneurship isn't only a young person's game.
The myth of entrepreneurship is that it's a young person's game. And fair enough, because the Mark Zuckerberg's and Jack Dorsey's of the startup world keep that myth front and center.
But stats don't back this up: most successful entrepreneurs are over 30 years old, even over 40. The years of experience and wisdom do matter. So if you're not 21, don't worry. You can still be a wildly successful entrepreneur.
A person's hustle, passion and ability to get things done trumps smarts everyday.
This one's hard for me because I have an MBA and lots of traditional credentials, but reality is successful entrepreneurs are the ones who know how to get things done consistently. The act of showing up and persisting means way more than any smarts or credentials you may (or may not) have. Hustle accordingly.