This post originally appeared on VentureBent
Over 4th of July weekend I had a great talk with a friend’s Dad whose had a pretty stellar career in private equity. He probably still has American Online and couldn’t tell you what a hashtag is, but the guy is a total sage when it comes to business insight across the board.
We talked about how important it is to find a career that truly excites you: nothing new there. A more thought provoking conversation surrounded how we must objectively evaluate our personal strengths and weaknesses to see where we can win professionally. Its an incredible insight that I think is particularly important for entrepreneurs to think about.
If I was a betting man, or a VC : ), I’d always put my money on entrepreneurs who I believe have a competitive advantage. I think an advantage can manifest itself in a few ways: talent, insight, relationships, and you might be able to throw timing in there. If you don’t feel like you have one of these going for you take a look in the mirror and ask yourself how you can win. If your answer is a unique idea my chips are on the other guy. Let’s break these down:
Talent: Be objective about the talent you have and your chances of winning given those circumstances. Odds are if your team’s technical abilities are limited you shouldn’t try to build the most advanced search algorithm known to man. Unless of course you can hire the person who can do this. Stick to your guns and play ball at a level you can legitimately compete at. You’ll give yourself a better chance of succeeding. I say this not to discourage innovation, but to encourage success. If the sky’s the limit than rock on and let me know what you’re building.
Insight: The term “unique domain insight” is coveted for a reason – entrepreneurs who build businesses around spaces they deeply understand are more likely to win. They can see opportunities others can’t just as easily as they can anticipate potential hurdles and understand how to overcome them – so important. If you have no idea about the space you’re competing in hire or talk at length with someone that does.
Relationships: Sadly its not always the best products that win; sometimes its those who have forged the best strategic relationships. If you have them, good for you – this can make up for other shortcomings. If you don’t, evaluate the playing field and understand who does and what that means for your business. Do you want exclusive access to the twitter firehose for a groundbreaking data service. Better make sure somebody whose doing the same thing hasn’t beaten you to the punch.
Timing: This one is tough to argue because technically anyone interested in building a business has the same timing as you. I think this more speaks to first mover advantage (which isn’t always good) or unique insight into a confluence of factors. Both of these are a bit redundant. First mover advantage ultimately manifests itself as relationships with users, consumers, and partners. Insight on timing is, well, insight.
Ultimately, the thesis of this post requires entrepreneurs to ask themselves one question: are they poised to build the business they’rebuilding? I’m not asking are they the most poised because there will always be people out there who are better suited to do something. I’m asking at some level do you possess something that will enable you to win? Those who can answer yes have a far better chance of succeeding. If you can’t answer yes think about the collective superpowers of your team and where you can win – if you find something there that excites you the sky’s the limit.