Bill Gross, the founder and CEO of idealab, has founded more than 75 startups in his lifetime.* More amazingly, dozens of them have grown into successful, sustainable businesses.
Recently, I had the privilege of sitting down with Bill to discuss, among other things, his amazing success rate. I asked him to spell out the three most important pieces of advice he would give to other entrepreneurs.
First, said Bill, you have to be passionate about the product or service you're providing. Every emerging business will have near-death experiences, and to get through them you need more than a financial incentive. You need to really care about what it is you're trying to do.
Second, Bill said, you need to be straightforward with everyone you're dealing with. Straightforward with investors, straightforward with employees, straightforward with customers. You need to tell people what to expect, and you need to be honest and forthright when things don't go as you hoped or expected.
Lastly, said Bill, you need to give your employees a significant piece of the action. Many entrepreneurs worry too much about hanging on to every last share of equity. In so doing, Bill said, they underestimate how much a meaningful equity stake (via options) will motivate the rest of the team.
Over the past two decades, I've worked with successful entrepreneurs all over the world (few of whom, of course, are as successful as Bill). I think almost all of them would agree with Bill's advice.
*Here are just a few of the idealab companies you’re probably heard of:
- Overture (GoTo.com)
Recently, idealab has focused on the Cleantech marketing, founding a number of green energy companies including eSolar, Aptera, and Distributed World Power.