Whether it’s inadequate funding, a lackluster idea, or a market not quite ready for a product or service, every entrepreneur can expect to encounter pitfalls that can often lead to crisis.
Many startups do come out on the other side. These success stories offer proof that it can be done, and their founders carry important insights. While there is no surefire formula for success, the MBA entrepreneurs in Poets&Quants’ Top 100 Startups certainly know a thing or two about attracting investment, selecting co-founders and leveraging resources. Their best advice:
1. Don’t go solo
Ask any successful entrepreneur, and they will tell you that venturing into the murky startup waters alone is a bad idea. In fact, having a great management team ranks as the second-most important factor to startup success–higher than finance, education, or luck, according to a Pratt School of Engineering study.
Logistics aside, you’ll likely need some emotional support after pulling a grueling 60-hour week. Just ask Justin Borgman, a Yale School of Management MBA and founder of Hadapt, who compares starting a company with a roller coaster ride. “I think entrepreneurship is a very emotional experience in ways other occupations aren’t,” he says. “But even when it’s really hard and really painful and you practically want to cry sometimes, you just kind of pick yourself up and push forward.”
You also want to make sure you pick someone who doesn’t drive you crazy, especially during high stress situations. Katie Finnegan, co-founder of Hukkster and a Duke University Fuqua School MBA, suggests a courting process to make sure you’ve found the perfect fit. “We like to say launching a startup is like a marriage because you’re moving full force ahead with someone,” she says. “So train for a marathon with them, work on a project where you pull all nighters, do something really stressful with them because that’s a lot different than having a beer with someone on Friday after class.”
Finally, remember that your co-founder shouldn’t be your best friend. It’s actually better to go find someone who’s not like you. After all, nothing gets done with two idea guys, says Karan Singh, an MIT Sloan School of Management MBA and co-founder of Ginger.io. “Try to find someone who’s different from you, very different from you,” he says. “They can still be from the same graduate program, but the problem with that a lot of times is that there’s a lot of overlapping skill sets. So make sure your co-founder has a different personality and a different set of skills.”
2. Stop looking for an idea
So you’ve found the perfect co-founder, and now you need to land a brilliant idea. Stop right there. Maybe the problem is you’re squandering time searching for a killer idea, instead of solving a problem that you actually care about. “The best ideas are the ones that come from your internal passion,” Finnegan says. “You will eat, sleep, breath, and dream your start-up. You have to want it to take over your life.” She admits that now, instead of singing in the shower, she brainstorms ideas for Hukkster.