Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hearing Bob Dorf at Startup Weekend

When I learned that Bob Dorf was going to speak at Startup Weekend at the Stamford Innovation Center, I was excited. I'd been hearing about Bob Dorf as an entrepreneur, investor and business guru for years. Not only that, I had recently read much of his book, The Startup Owner's Manual, Clearly, I had to attend this event, which happened last Friday, April 26, 2013.

I was not disappointed. Dorf speaks at Startup Weekends all over the world, from the US to Brazil to Russia. In Stamford he spent an hour outlining the essential elements that you must have lined up to launch a new business. He illustrated the points with war stories of successes and failures. Here are a few of the points Dorf  made:

  • It's brutally hard to achieve success. Out of the 650,000 businesses that get going annually, only about 12 will go on to become great companies that are wildly successful.
  • You do not need a business plan - just a Minimum Viable Plan "MVP"), which can boil down the essentials: value proposition, customer relationships, revenue model, and plan of execution.Get real facts to back up your assertions and assumptions.
  • Your business needs to be repeatable, profitable and sustainable.
  • Get out of the building! Go out and talk to customers and potential customers to learn if you have a viable idea. Listen to them.
  • Pivot if customers are not interested in your product or service or if they suggest modifications. More new businesses fail because they lack customers than for any other reason.
  • Put together a team. Every startup needs "a hacker, a hustler and an artiste."
  • Come up with a way to make money -- your business model.
I agree with everything Dorf said, probably because I've been saying similar things to my own clients for over a decade. While I am a business plan developer, I haven't written a full business plan since 2005. No one wants to read one, write one or pay for one. What I do now is very close to an MVP -- a three to seven page summary or a one-page angel summary. But what is more important is the planning process -- addressing the points made above, plus a few more.  

Unfortunately, I could not stay to participate in the entire weekend due to family and client obligations. I wish I could have heard the final presentations. But Friday evening was well worth it.

Note: If you live in the Stamford, CT, area, check out the Stamford Innovation Center. They have a lot going on to support new businesses and entrepreneurs.
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