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Top 10 tips for innovative entrepreneurs from Guy Kawasaki


On Thursday night, I was lucky enough to catch Guy Kawasaki giving the keynote address at Challenge Your World here in Montreal. The subject of his speech was innovation and entrepreneurship and much of it was geared towards startup tech companies. I got a lot out of the evening, and found I was able to relate a lot of what he said to what we’ve been up to here at the NFB, especially in regard to the use of social media and marketing.

So here I give you a very abbreviated version of his Top 10 tips for starting a new business:

1. Build what you want to use. This was a great way to start off the talk, as it immediately turned the whole notion of market research/focus groups and consumer demand on its head. As Guy pointed out, some of the things we use and value most in our daily lives were created by a couple of guys (or girls) who wanted to build something they would enjoy using themselves.

2. Pay 0 dollars for tools. Guy mentioned that when we look back on this recession, he truly believes it will have been one of the most lucrative times in history for entrepreneurs. With all the free resources available online, there is no reason to spend money on tools when starting up a new venture.

3. Pay 0 dollars for marketing. If you’re reading this blog, you probably already have a grasp on the power of social media when it comes to marketing a product or service. With Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media sites, it’s never been easier to get your message across… without the expensive fees that come with PR firms.

4. Suck down and across… but never up. It used to be that you had to have the support of an influencer or someone in a position of power in order to succeed. That’s no longer the case. It’s not a celebrity that’s  going to sell your product – it’s a nobody. According to Guy, “Nobodies are the new somebodies.”  Someone will come along, try out your product and tell other nobodies about it. Groundswell is the new buzz word, so get your product out as widely as possible.

5. Use Twitter as a marketing platform. There is no other tool out there that allows you to listen in on real time conversations like Twitter. You can search for anything under the sun and instantly see what people are saying about it. As Guy said, “The closest thing to Twitter is the CIA.” He’s also a big advocate of Tweetmeme, and I agree.

6. Pay 0 dollars for people. In this time of economic downturn, people come cheap. Take advantage of that, along with free interns, etc.

7. Put everything in the cloud. Okay, so this one is really geared towards computer-based and tech companies, but it was a valid point. With companies like Rackspace and Amazon Web Services, there’s no reason anymore to keep your own servers on your own racks. Pay for what you use, and let someone else take care of it for you.

8. Ship then test. Unless of course you’re in life sciences… But Guy’s point here is that you don’t wait until your product is perfect before unleashing it on the world. Get your product out there and get it in people’s hands. You can always make improvements later.

9. Avoid Venture Capital. This one was a little odd coming from a Venture Capitalist, but he did make a good point. Given all of the above, VC’s are expecting companies to come to them that are a little more mature. He compares VC to a drug – that it feels great to have, but you shouldn’t depend on it. Bootstrap your fledgling business, and use VC to scale a proven one.

10. Niche thyself. Ideally, you will come up with an idea that is unique and has value. If you can find a niche for yourself in business that meets those two standards, you’re golden.

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    — PETER,
  2. Excellent, made a lot of sense.

    I like tip # 10 and it’s the core to any small-sized business. Also, Tip # 4 is all about your target market tasting your product/service. Just like when you walk down a supermarket ally and you find those nice ladies trying to hand you over tasters.. hmm yummy..

    Tip # 7 is also powerful because it highlights the notion of outsourcing your non core competencies to those that have it as theirs which relates back to Tip # 10.

    Thanks Julie

    — Qussay Abdul Wahab,

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