Are all entrepreneurs big thinkers?

Kd7rSeMWsDXGw3S6QGW_KT2Ou2oTSu203aJZAIbr5pBP7kFd0ebAN9GjuvERk1Cx_nBYFA=s117I have always been brutally honest.  Although with age and experience I am not as harsh as I might have been in the years prior.  An area that I will always need to work on.

Entrepreneurs come in all sizes and shapes.  There are entrepreneurs that have been coming up with ideas in their head from the get-go that have gone on to build businesses on those ideas some starting with a lemonade stand.  Then as they get older they have come up with really big ideas that have been funded to grow.  They have not only come up with the business model they have had to raise money which means getting other people excited about what you are building.  That money raising piece can be one of the most difficult components. 

There are entrepreneurs who create businesses and are able to self-fund or just raise money from friends and family because that is all that they need to execute and succeed. 

Then there are those entrepreneurs who have boot-strapped businesses and have never raised a dime.  Their businesses are at a point where a little bit of cash would be a great thing but it isn't a business that an angel or a VC would support.  It is a business that might do $10m annually.  Where does that funding come from?

Years ago the banks funded the smaller entrepreneurs.  Not sure who banks are giving loans to but they are certainly not giving them out to small businesses like the ones I have seen.  I have met with more than a few women over the past month who are in this camp.  Driven, smart and focused women who are making money but are struggling to get to the next level.  It will happen but it takes time.  Would an infusion of cash help, sure but from who? 

My advice to all of them is just keep doing what you are doing.  If you can find one single investor who wants to roll up their sleeves and get involved of course if that make sense then perhaps that is the way to go.  Otherwise, just keep doing what you do.  It takes a long time to build a business.  We read about all the businesses that come out of nowhere who have been financed.  Many of those businesses have been around a lot longer than anyone realizes.  Those ideas have been rambling around the entrepreneurs head for a lot longer than you think. 

Great businesses take time to grow.  Being an entrepreneur is never easy but it can be really rewarding. You can spend a lot of time in the echo chamber of your head.  We all want to see the big success stories that we read about but there is a lot of people building new companies that will have loyal users that will never be huge but those companies are making an impact in their own powerful way. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. Susan

    Reminds me of the expression “it takes 10 years to be an overnight success.” So very true.

    1. Gotham Gal

      great saying. so very very true.

  2. Lisa Hickey

    Hah, how did you know I needed exactly this post today?I tweeted the other day that I think that most problems can be solved by thinking bigger. When I have a problem that seems insurmountable, I try to solve a bigger, harder problem, and the smaller problem takes care of itself. Or sometimes I try to solve 3 problems at once – I’ve found that that is a great path to innovation. Anyone can solve one problem. But a solution that gets rid of three pain points at once? It’s almost always a solution that is both elegant and innovative.Good bits of advice I’ve gotten along the way include: “always chase revenue” and “figure out what the one metric is that will determine your success or failure. If that metric goes down, drop everything until it gets fixed.”I also follow Malcolm Gladwell’s strategy to get to a tipping point. He says that an idea (or a product, company, business, personality) gets to a tipping point by going from individuals to small groups to large groups. The point at which something makes the jump from small groups to large groups is the point at which it “tips”. That is the day where everyone starts saying “Where did such and such come from? How did they get to be such a success?” That path to a tipping point has been the basis of many a strategic path.

    1. Gotham Gal

      always chase revenue. absolutely!

  3. Cynthia Schames

    This is such a rare and balanced viewpoint: it’s OKAY to have a profitable, sustainable business that doesn’t become a household name. That’s something you rarely hear if you spend a lot of time around the startup hype machine (which I do).I know from experience that what Joanne is saying is true. After being laid off from my job the day before my wedding (!), I built a highly profitable $2M a year ecommerce business in 2002 which kept me satisfied until 2008.My sights are set now on a much bigger goal & vision, but I’m here to tell you, it CAN be done! If you’re reading this & want to connect, please feel free to reach out and say hi. I’m a good cheerleader 🙂

  4. takingpitches

    I love this. You don’t need to take money to be more than a big success; and in fact in some circumstances it makes it easier not to take money. Bill Gurley touched on that in the great interview he did with Om at the end of last year.Bill illustrates that the opportunities to have a meaningful exit become far more constrained by taking money. The most obvious point is through the dilution, but the important related point is that the entrepreneur needs to build value beyond the sweet spot of many acquirers:”The number one type of acquisition that the big companies like to do is $20 to $70 million. The minute you take venture…and all of a sudden everyone’s expectation is its got to be $150 [million] or more or we are not saying yes…and that frustrates the buyers…and so if you have a killer product that might elicit a $30 million exit and you can bootstrap and hustle your way and own 80% of it…80% of $30 million is $24 million and that’s a lot of money for an entrepreneur…and I think a lot of people get caught up in the game of venture…I love this story of dpreview which is a website for digital camera reviews. 1 guy. 1 founder. and Amazon reportedly…I have heard anywhere from $40 to $70 million for a single guy…it wasn’t a venture-backed deal…it worked out very well for that entrepreneur.”

    1. Gotham Gal

      people do get ridiculously caught up in the game of venture. sometimes not a pretty game.

  5. Nancy L

    I think there’s a difference between entrepreneurs and startup entrepreneurs. I think Paul Graham once said the difference between a startup and a business is that a startup aims for the fences.. thinks big, disrupts huge industries. An entrepreneur can found startups as well as normal business.I attended the WE Conference this year and that was one of my take aways. Not all the entrepreneurs there were swinging for the fences, but they were entrepreneurs.

    1. Gotham Gal

      How high does the fence have to be?Entrepreneur is an entrepreneur.Not easy no matter how hard you swing