I was the worst pizza delivery guy. Fraternity guys would chase after me as I was peeling out of their driveways after a delivery. Why? The sauce and cheese fell all to one side. I couldn’t help it. I also never got tips. Wende, my partner in our restaurant delivery business, always got tips. But she was beautiful, blonde, great smile, had personality, etc. And I secretly loved her. I couldn’t compete. I always hoped I would deliver to a frat party where all the girls were running around naked. But that never happened.
We also started a debit card for college kids. From the first day we were open for business we had college kids signing up for our card (there were no credit cards for kids then). And anyone who had our debit card could order food from the 20 or so restaurants in town and we’d deliver, but with a 25% markup.
I loved delivering food because it gave me twenty, or even forty minute breaks from my girlfriend. We were having troubles at the time. I’d sometimes stop the car between deliveries and just read. I was a screwed up 19 year old then. Now I’m only a mildly-screwed up 43 year old.
I’ve had seven startups since then. And some profitable exits. And another 20 or so that I’ve funded.
When I think “entrepreneur” I think Mark Cuban or Larry Page or Steve Jobs. I don’t usually think of myself. In part because I feel shame that after all of these startups I don’t have a billion dollars. Many startups fail. But I’ve had a few successes as well. Successes in a startup makes you feel immortal.
I was going to make this post: “the 12 rules to being a good entrepreneur” and I outlined the 12 rules that have consistently worked for me. But rule #1 is taking up 1500 words already. Tim Sykes tells me I need to break these posts up more. So this one rule is going to take up the whole post. But, for me, this is the most important rule.
IMPORTANT RULE: Have a customer before you start your business. This is a corollary of the phrase, “ideas are a dime a dozen”.
There is another corollary: lazy is best. If you have to work for two years before one dollar of revenue comes into business then thats too much work. I’m lazy so I like money coming in with as little work as possible. Mark Zuckerberg, of course, is different. He put in years of work before dollar one of revenue came in. But we’re different people.
In about twenty minutes I’m going to go to the local café here, The Foundry, and bring a pad, order a coffee and muffin, and write down ideas for businesses. Then I’ll probably throw the piece of paper out. Because ideas are useless. They are just practice to keep your idea muscle in shape.
FAKE RULE: People say, “Execution is important”. That’s not really true either. Execution is useless. It’s a commodity. The only thing that’s important is money. You get money by having a customer. You get a customer by satisfying a need that’s so important to them they would be willing to pay for it. If you have a customer that’s willing to pay you money, then execution becomes a lot easier. Life as an entrepreneur is hard. Why make it harder for yourself?
I like stability as much as I like taking risks. So for me, I need a customer. It’s a matter of how much risk you want to take. In an earlier post I suggest reasons why people need to quit their jobs and jump into the abyss. If a customer happens to be waiting for you in the abyss then you won’t be lonely there. Loneliness is bad for a startup.
Example: How Stockpickr Started