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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 …

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…

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  • 1. 20 years 20 important mistakes I’ve made as an entrepreneur A presentation to the MIT Media Lab Ventures Class, 2/18/10 David Rose
  • 2. Don’t 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 Don’t 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 Don’t 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. Don’t just work on the product Your job is to make 4 bridges meet Team Product 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 2004 Finance Travel Outdoors Sports Messaging News Enterprise Other Shopping DOW Traffic Weather Game Email Election Sales Web Traffic eBay Congestion Forecast Score Waiting Polls Trends Auctions FTSE Commute Ski Team IM Buddy Opinion Customer Online Wedding Time Standings Status Polls satisfaction Transactions Registry NASDAQ Frequent Surf Game Mobile plan NewsFutures Inventory Homeland Flyer Miles Countdown minutes Levels Security My Portfolio Sailing Betting Meeting Profit Odds Countdown Margins Bank Air Quality Blogshares Employee Developer* Balance Utilization Credit Card Pollen Competition Balance Forecast A single pixel browser is only interesting at MIT Net Worth Golf You can own one idea in people’s minds Ambient Devices CONFIDENTIAL
  • 20. Ambient Umbrella
  • 21. Compensation isn’t 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 shouldn’t partner with startups Weather Wizard ambient
  • 26. Energy Joule Startups shouldn’t 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 credibility ambient
  • 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 work Flower Power Motivators: Fashion, style, convenience Condition: Depression Prescribed: Cymbalta (Lilly) For Jill the Flower Pillbox lets her manage her depression with security and ease. The stylish circular case holds a week’s 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. Don’t design the right product for the customer VITALITY VITALITY INC. ©2005 PATENTS PENDING
  • 33. Persona: Mel, age 72 VITALITY Lifestyle: Sedentary, retired Construction Manager, Match Book Motivators: Condition: Coupons and Rebates Hypercholesterolemia, Hypertension Prescribed: 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 up…at 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 Don’t 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. Glyphs represent 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 Teach Mentor Fund Raise Fund Mentored Learn drose@media.mi Critique
  • 41. Don’t tell your girlfriend, spouse, family, friends that you’re on the verge of a deal. ...until the funds are wired into your account
  • 42. Connected Syringes Don’t stop sketching • Looks like a high-tech sunglasses case Sketching doesn’t defocus your engineering team • Insulated case slides open to expose syringes • Glows, vibrates, and plays ring tones to subtly get your attention • Wireless connection to pharmacy and caregivers • Distributed by specialty pharmacy as part of adherence 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 and projection • Spirograph projection shows visual feedback to anticipate an asthma attack • Wireless connection to the web permits realtime data analysis and graphing on smart phone.
  • 45. 20 years 20 important mistakes David Rose