How To Make It as a
First-Time Entrepreneur

How to Make it as a First-Time Entrepreneur

business man

Vinicius Vacanti is co-founder and CEO of Yipit. Next posts on how to acquire users for free and how to raise a Series A. Don’t miss them by subscribing via email or via twitter.

As a former i-banker, I struggle to overcome each of the following five shortcomings. I’ll write about how I’m dealing with them in future posts. But, the first step is recognizing you have a problem.

  1. You have no useful start-up skills. You certainly didn’t learn how to program (cheap excel macros don’t count). But, it turns out that i-banking didn’t teach you essential non-technical skills either including product management, marketing or fundraising skills. You’ll need those skills, not just an idea, to attract a technical co-founder.
  2. You hesitate to make uninformed decisions. In the i-banking world, you were taught to never make decisions without fully investigating the issue. In the start-up world, you are better off making 100 decisions with a bunch being wrong than 10 well-researched decisions.
  3. You’re a perfectionist. When I joined The Blackstone Group, Steve Schwarzman, the company’s CEO, told us:  ”99% right is 100% wrong”. In the i-banking world, you had to be perfect — the numbers had to tie, the formatting had to be consistent, and, above all else, no extra spaces. In the start-up world, you can’t afford to be perfect. You can only spend 20% of the time to get 80% done.  You don’t have time for the last 20%. As Reid Hoffman, CEO of Linkedin, said:  ”If you review your first site version and don’t feel embarrassment, you spent too much time on it.
  4. You don’t network. In the start-up world, you’re told to never eat alone. But, in i-banking, you always ate alone at your cubicle. If you were lucky, you got to eat dinner with some of the other analysts in the conference room.  In the start-up world, you need to become a member of the tech community. You need to meet everyone because those people can help make or break your start-up with their support and ideas.
  5. You’re too private. You spend hours adjusting your Facebook profile privacy preferences to make sure you couldn’t be searched. You never tell you friends about what you’re working on — you weren’t allowed to. You’re not a self-promoter.  In the start-up world, you can’t be secretive. You have to talk to you friends about what you are working on without making them sign an NDA (sorry to the people I did this to). They’ll completely change the way you are thinking about your project; they’ll make valuable introductions.  You need to start a twitter account and a blog. You need to become a self-promoter.

Fortunately, what you did learn on Wall Street was how to work incredibly hard and do 30 things at once. You just need to be aware that you have some new habits to pick-up and a few habits to lose. I’ll continue writing about what I did to overcome each of these limitations here and you can follow me on twitter. (see #5 for self-promotion).

Update:  Interesting post by Kate Huyett on 5 Things I Learned in Finance That Are (So Far) Helpful at a Startup

Vinicius Vacanti is co-founder and CEO of Yipit. Next posts on how to acquire users for free and how to raise a Series A. Don’t miss them by subscribing via email or via twitter.

  • http://www.nabbr.com MattMinoff

    I have been thinking a lot about this topic lately and believe that the positives outweigh the negatives. Starting to write a post which I will share when ready.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    There are definitely some positives. But, if a college student asks me what he/she should do if they want to eventually become a tech entrepreneur, I would hesitate to suggest they work in investment banking or consulting first.

  • http://www.nabbr.com MattMinoff

    I have been thinking a lot about this topic lately and believe that the positives outweigh the negatives. Starting to write a post which I will share when ready.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      There are definitely some positives. But, if a college student asks me what he/she should do if they want to eventually become a tech entrepreneur, I would hesitate to suggest they work in investment banking or consulting first.

      • stal

        The correct answer to that would be: “Kid, just go do it. Make it happen. Like right now, as soon as we are done talking.”

      • http://twitter.com/myamartino myamartino

        The scarce resource is the willingness to jump in and do something, not the “business skills” you learn in banking/consulting. I wish I had known that if you start doing something interesting with enthusiasm, you’ll be surrounded by people with skills who are dying to get involved…

        Banking wasn’t a waste by any stretch, but it certainly didn’t prep me for anything entrepreneurial.

        • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

          Definitely not a waste (especially if you saved money) but, as you point out, doesn’t prep you for the entrepreneurial world.

  • http://www.nabbr.com MattMinoff

    I have been thinking a lot about this topic lately and believe that the positives outweigh the negatives. Starting to write a post which I will share when ready.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      There are definitely some positives. But, if a college student asks me what he/she should do if they want to eventually become a tech entrepreneur, I would hesitate to suggest they work in investment banking or consulting first.

      • stal

        The correct answer to that would be: “Kid, just go do it. Make it happen. Like right now, as soon as we are done talking.”

      • http://twitter.com/myamartino myamartino

        The scarce resource is the willingness to jump in and do something, not the “business skills” you learn in banking/consulting. I wish I had known that if you start doing something interesting with enthusiasm, you’ll be surrounded by people with skills who are dying to get involved…

        Banking wasn’t a waste by any stretch, but it certainly didn’t prep me for anything entrepreneurial.

        • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

          Definitely not a waste (especially if you saved money) but, as you point out, doesn’t prep you for the entrepreneurial world.

  • dolginow

    As a fellow i-Banker I can empathize. Related to point 3, is that I found myself not listening to people (or more importantly users) because I felt like I had researched and developed something that made sense. Reid Hoffman's point is well taken – 1. build quickly 2. listen well 3. fix quickly 4. repeat. Wasting time on inane details gets you nowhere fast.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    I also didn't listen to users either out of arrogance or fear that my idea was wrong. I hadn't realized that just because your idea might be flawed, doesn't mean you will fail. You can change the idea. The ability to adapt is the true value of an entrepreneur, not the initial idea.

  • Anonymous

    As a fellow i-Banker I can empathize. Related to point 3, is that I found myself not listening to people (or more importantly users) because I felt like I had researched and developed something that made sense. Reid Hoffman’s point is well taken – 1. build quickly 2. listen well 3. fix quickly 4. repeat. Wasting time on inane details gets you nowhere fast.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      I also didn’t listen to users either out of arrogance or fear that my idea was wrong. I hadn’t realized that just because your idea might be flawed, doesn’t mean you will fail. You can change the idea. The ability to adapt is the true value of an entrepreneur, not the initial idea.

  • Anonymous

    As a fellow i-Banker I can empathize. Related to point 3, is that I found myself not listening to people (or more importantly users) because I felt like I had researched and developed something that made sense. Reid Hoffman’s point is well taken – 1. build quickly 2. listen well 3. fix quickly 4. repeat. Wasting time on inane details gets you nowhere fast.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      I also didn’t listen to users either out of arrogance or fear that my idea was wrong. I hadn’t realized that just because your idea might be flawed, doesn’t mean you will fail. You can change the idea. The ability to adapt is the true value of an entrepreneur, not the initial idea.

  • stal

    The correct answer to that would be: “Kid, just go do it. Make it happen. Like right now, as soon as we are done talking.”

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  • http://crownrentcar.net sewa mobil

    i admire the way of your thinking broyour five reasons are so worthy and usefull for me who work as an enterpreneur

  • sewa mobil

    i admire the way of your thinking bro
    your five reasons are so worthy and usefull for me who work as an enterpreneur

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks! I’m glad they were useful.

  • sewa mobil

    i admire the way of your thinking bro
    your five reasons are so worthy and usefull for me who work as an enterpreneur

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      Thanks! I’m glad they were useful.

  • http://twitter.com/myamartino myamartino

    The scarce resource is the willingness to jump in and do something, not the “business skills” you learn in banking/consulting. I wish I had known that if you start doing something interesting with enthusiasm, you'll be surrounded by people with skills who are dying to get involved…Banking wasn't a waste by any stretch, but it certainly didn't prep me for anything entrepreneurial.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Thanks! I'm glad they were useful.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    Definitely not a waste (especially if you saved money) but, as you point out, doesn't prep you for the entrepreneurial world.

  • http://twitter.com/NPixie Natasha Prasad

    I think this is a fantastic post (mostly because I completely relate to it!) As a former PE investor and current business school student, I've struggled with more than these 5 handicaps. The first time an entrepreneur told me I didn't have any “real skills”, I was pretty shocked. When my startup boss told me to just get a product out there, test it and fix it later, my instinctive reaction was to say “but… it's not perfect?” Luckily after spending a summer at a veteran consumer tech “startup” and lots of time in Silicon Valley, I think I've made good progress. The last thing I'm still grasping for is some basic coding skills (hello html, css!). A lot of what we (former ibankers and all their ilk) need to hear, whether we are trying to be entrepreneurs or not, is stop talking, quit analyzing and just go out and do it.

  • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

    We've definitely walked in the same shoes. Definitely recommend learning html / css. It's a very isolated part of the web development process and one that can quickly speed up your ability to make changes to the copy and look of the site without having to ask your developer / outsourcer.

  • http://twitter.com/NPixie Natasha Prasad

    I think this is a fantastic post (mostly because I completely relate to it!) As a former PE investor and current business school student, I’ve struggled with more than these 5 handicaps. The first time an entrepreneur told me I didn’t have any “real skills”, I was pretty shocked. When my startup boss told me to just get a product out there, test it and fix it later, my instinctive reaction was to say “but… it’s not perfect?”

    Luckily after spending a summer at a veteran consumer tech “startup” and lots of time in Silicon Valley, I think I’ve made good progress. The last thing I’m still grasping for is some basic coding skills (hello html, css!). A lot of what we (former ibankers and all their ilk) need to hear, whether we are trying to be entrepreneurs or not, is stop talking, quit analyzing and just go out and do it.

    • http://viniciusvacanti.com Vinicius Vacanti

      We’ve definitely walked in the same shoes. Definitely recommend learning html / css. It’s a very isolated part of the web development process and one that can quickly speed up your ability to make changes to the copy and look of the site without having to ask your developer / outsourcer.