If someone said to you, ‘Here’s how I made a million dollars and I’m willing to share my secrets with you’, you’d listen to them, wouldn’t you? It’d be insane not to. We all know that success leaves clues, so it makes sense to follow those who have gone before and learn from what they’ve done.
Having interviewed dozens of successful online entrepreneurs, I’ve discovered that there are certain things they all have in common. Developing an ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ is one of them — a way of thinking that is
slightly different from the way most people think. I’ve condensed those differences into five qualities. These entrepreneurs:
- trust their crazy ideas — they back their judgement, listen to their instincts and persist in the face of relentless criticism
- get started — they start small, pivot quickly and are hands on (especially at the beginning)
- have depth of vision — they look at what the trends are and look further ahead than most (which is why their ideas are sometimes considered ‘crazy’)
- know what business they’re in — they know what sector they operate in and who their competitors are
- know what problem their business solves — they know exactly why a customer will buy their product
- and the revenue model that underpins that transaction.
Trust your crazy ideas
- Entrepreneurs think differently too, which is why entrepreneurship often attracts the crazy ones, the ones prone to breaking the rules, the ones who don’t say, ‘Why?’ but ‘Why not?’ This ‘craziness’ is often borne out of a passion — a passion to right a wrong, make a difference, solve a problem, make a million.
This begs the question, ‘What’s the difference between someone being seen as crazy and someone being seen as visionary?’ The answer? The crazy ones just take longer to give up. Jeff Bezos’ Amazon started in 1994 but didn’t turn a profit until 2001. Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page also struggled to make money in the early days. Yet all persisted and stuck to their vision in the face of immense criticism and public pressure.
People said Trump was crazy when he declared in the 1990s he would one day become President of the United States.
People said Musk was crazy when he said that Mars travel would become a commercial reality.
Trump’s and Musk’s crazy ideas took nearly two decades to manifest, and here we are, watching the consequences of those ideas play out in our news feed each day. When an entrepreneur’s audacious idea fails, they’re considered crazy. When their idea succeeds, they’re considered visionary. Musk is both crazy and visionary. As for Trump? History will be the judge on that one.
From zero to hero
Take a look at some of the crazy ideas that are succeeding right here in Australia and you’ll realize that anything is possible. And the factors of digital disruption are compressing the time frames, which means fortunes that would have taken a lifetime to amass are now being
made within years, as evidenced by former corporate executive-turned fashion entrepreneur Jane Lu, founder of Showpo. What started off with a laptop and two shelves of clothing is now an online juggernaut. Jane’s business got started in her parents’ garage, became a pop-up store, then a retail store and is now a pure-play online retailer that’s dominating the fast fashion market.
Four factors that enable digital disruption
There are many factors enabling businesses such as Envato and Showpo — and smaller startups such as Wholesome Hub — to get started and grow so quickly, but we’ll focus on the big four here.
Independently, these four factors (or technologies) are all game-changers, but when combined, they become exponentially disruptive. The four factors that have enabled these startups to go from zero to hero in such a short space of time are:
- big data
I’ll go into greater detail throughout the book, but here’s a quick-start guide to each one.
Let’s recap. You’ve got a passion to start an online business. You’ve got a crazy idea that might work. You’ve got access to the tools of disruption … but there’s a key element missing. It’s called taking action. Some entrepreneurs have great ideas but they take too long to get started and by the time they do, the market has moved on or a competitor has taken the lead.In order to succeed, you have to start.
This sounds obvious, I know, but it’s easy to forget that having an idea, talking about it and attending meetups and hackathons are all well and good, but ideas are a dime a dozen. What separates successful entrepreneurs
from the others is that they do something with their idea. They create something that gives momentum to their idea. The best way to bring an idea to life is to create something for others to look at. That ‘something’ is often referred to as a minimum viable product (MVP). The MVP could be a pop-up shop at a shopping centre or a market stall, a one-page website to show prospects or a paper mock-up of your invention. It has to be something that others can see. Without that it’s just an idea — and everyone has an idea. I’ll cover MVPs in more detail in Step 2.
Why entrepreneurs start their businesses
How and why entrepreneurs get started is as varied as the businesses they create. Some start out on their journey because they personally experienced a problem that needed solving, saw a gap in the market that needed filling or had a bad sales experience they felt they could improve upon. Others start because they want to make a lot of money, while others start off selling one thing and that leads them to selling something else.
Uber got started because its founder couldn’t find a cab.
Uber founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp were stranded on a snowy evening in Paris and couldn’t get a cab. They mused, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if one of the cars driving past could give us a ride and we would pay them for the privilege?’
That musing led to the creation of one of the world’s most disruptive startups.
For one Western Australian entrepreneur, the idea for an online business grew out of frustration.
Often a business starts by offering something and as a result of being in the market, discovers the customer wants something different. Being open to change is the hallmark of entrepreneurial success.
For example, if Shaun O’Brien, founder of Selby Acoustics, hadn’t started his first business, there’s no way he would have launched his second. Like many in the early 2000s, Shaun was attracted to the high margins that could be made selling TVs and other big-box electronic items online direct to the customer. But what he didn’t bank on was the plethora of hassles and hurdles that came with eliminating the middleman.