Can you unleash your smart inner-entrepreneur and acquire the skills to grow? Or should you seek venture capital (VC) and hope that the VCs and their hired CEO can do the job, build your venture, and make you rich?
Only you can answer whether you should acquire skills or seek VC. But if you want to build your venture, control it, and keep the wealth you can create, you may not have a choice. You may have to grow with smart skills. The reality, as I have noted before, is that 99.9 percent of entrepreneurs don’t get VC, and 80 percent fail with VC. Even among the 0.02 percent of ventures that succeed with VC, your stake may be diluted to insignificance if you don’t control the venture.
If you do decide that you want to unleash your smart inner-entrepreneur, here are six skills you should acquire from idea to take off.
1.Skills at the intersection of an emerging trend and your passion
To unleash your inner entrepreneur, do something that you enjoy because that is the main reason you would spend 24 hours a day working or thinking about how to make your business better. And why you are willing to stick to it even when your family is questioning your sanity. Find your inner joy in an emerging trend. Of the billion-dollar and hundred-million-dollar entrepreneurs I interviewed, a majority (about 60 percent) started their business in their passion. But about 96 percent then jumped onto an emerging trend, such as Gates, Jobs, and Zuckerberg. Sam Walton got into rural retail, and then jumped on the big-box trend.
2. Skills to sell without venture capital.
In addition to technical skills in the emerging trend, about 80 percent of billion-dollar entrepreneurs knew how to sell or merchandise. Dick Schulze merchandized consumer electronics for Sony, in addition to training, pricing, and advertising. From being a sales rep for Sony to opening Sound of Music (and then Best Buy) was only a small step.
3. Skills to develop a strategic advantage without venture capital
Many entrepreneurs believe that innovation is key and hope to become a first mover. The reality is that more than 90 percent of billion-dollar entrepreneurs imitated and improved. Steve Jobs was proud of the fact that he imitated and dominated.
4. Skills to finance the take off with control
VC doesn’t finance 99.9 percent of ventures and fails on 80 percent. Even more importantly, about 96 percent – 98 percent of VC is provided after Aha, when potential is evident. To succeed, entrepreneurs need skills to find the right alt-financing in order to take off without VC before Aha. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg did not get VC before Aha.
5. Skills to launch with limited capital
Before Aha, “no one” wants to fund you. So you need skills to get to Aha with the limited capital you have. Most billion-dollar entrepreneurs took off with small amounts from savings, friends, or family. Richard Burke built UnitedHealthcare without capital, but he had a line of credit with his house as collateral.
6. Skills to revision your venture in a murky, emerging trend
The first strategy picked by entrepreneurs is often not the right one. You may need to know how to re-vision and pivot – and find the fulcrum to dominate the emerging industry. Travis Kalanick redesigned Uber as a ride-sharing app and built a giant.
Whether you are seeking the capital-intensive VC route or the capital-efficient billion-dollar entrepreneur route, get the right skills. For more on these skills, see my book, Nothing Ventured, Everything Gained.
MY TAKE: 94 percent of billion-dollar entrepreneurs had the skills to take off without venture capital. To unleash your smart inner-entrepreneur, learn the skills needed. They are more important than capital if you want to control the venture you have so painstakingly built.