Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What Kind of Entrepreneur Are You Going to Be?

I was talking to a serial tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist in the Bay Area recently and he had an interesting take on entrepreneurship.  This was his comment:

There are three types of successful entrepreneurs:
  1. The young and dumb kind who work tirelessly and fearlessly until they find something that sticks
  2. The technical experts who solve a specific problem that only a handful of people know exists and how to fix
  3. The authentic kind who have domain expertise, industry experience and the infrastructure needed (relationships, etc.) within a market to exploit its inefficiencies
Barring you being a technical expert, what kind of entrepreneur are you going to be?

When I look at my career, we were definitely in the “young and dumb” category when launching and building TGA Premier Junior Golf.  But, thankfully, we succeeded due to a great concept and a decent amount of luck.

When we launched GLinks in 2010, we were sort-of authentic entrepreneurs.  We knew through our experience in the golf industry that there’s a real pain point for young professionals to learn golf in a fun, convenient and cost-effective way.  However, we came to realize that GLinks is mostly a marketing company and this is not where our expertise lies.  With TGA, the marketing is easy because our partnerships with the schools give us direct and open communication channels with our customers.  With GLinks, we had to get word out to the broader community…. A task that requires a greater investment in time, resources and capital.  We ultimately decided that it wasn’t worth it (right now) when our main focus is on building TGA.

Last year, we launched TGA Premier Youth Tennis again as sort-of authentic entrepreneurs.  Through TGA, we knew the youth sports market and franchising industries well, but we lacked experience in the tennis industry.  This concerned us.  So, we formed a founding partnership with the governing body of the tennis industry, the USTA.  The combination of our expertise with the USTA’s gives us all of the tools we should need to be successful.  If we could go back and redo GLinks, we would’ve used the same strategy and added a promotions guru to the founding team or partnered with a marketing/promotions group before launching.

The lesson in my friend's comment is that most entrepreneurs are either the young and dumb kind or the authentic kind, and you definitely have a better chance at success if you're in the authentic camp.  As my MBA professors used to say, always entrench yourself in an industry before trying to start a company in it.

This advice provided me with clarity and I hope it gives you food for thought as you put your ideas through the feasibility funnel.  And, for those of you aspiring entrepreneurs who don’t want to worry about such matters, the franchise industry has thousands of proven business models for you to explore.

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