Sit back, learn lessons and be inspired by Bill Gross in this Stanford entreprenuer lecture entitled, A Devotion to New Ideas.
Bill Gross thrives on turning innovative ideas into pioneering companies. He serves as founder and CEO of Idealab, which started over 75 companies since 1996. In this stimulating lecture, he shares how Idealab continues to bring incredible ideas to market, and his personal insights on starting and running successful organizations. Gross also describes the work of eSolar, a spin-off company of Idealab that works to make solar energy cost-competitive in the global marketplace
The following are notes from Gross’ presentation by Henry van Wagenberg.
adapted from 02/2011 Bill Gross talk at Stanford by hvw 08/2011
1. Create products that you care about, would want yourself, and that you’re passionate about.
You have to be in love with what you’re doing, because every start-up is going to face deep dark days, and if you and your team aren’t in love with it, you’ll give up.
- Started JumpStart (no relation) software business after watching “Multimedia Beethoven” CD-ROM that he found beautiful, and a desire to create educational software for his son
2. Found your business with a team that includes all four talents: Entrepreneurs, Producers, Administrators and Integrators.
This team working together can take a bad idea and turn it into a brilliant idea. A brilliant idea with a bad team will fizzle.
- Entrepreneur: sees things in the distance, ahead of their time, inventor
- Producer: gets things done, executes, sells the products, all the execution steps to get it in customer hands. some people are actually negative on this – detract from producing.
- Administrator: the bureaucrat. keep the wheels on the bus when orders are flowing in – create systems for the business to run itself
- Integrator: people person. helps other three talents get along – b/c often the other three talents hate each other’s guts.
3. Get out there and try stuff.
You never know what you’ll learn if you put yourself out there.
Bill learned this lesson while working on his JumpStart Educational Software (no relation). They started a program called “Weekend Warriors” – every employee went to CompUSA on Saturday and Sunday mornings and would set up at end of aisle to demo shoppers.
3. Listen to your customers. Build your business around customer needs, interests and feedback.
You’ll find new directions to take your business if you engage customers and keep your ears open.
While doing Weekend Warriors, Bill learned that customers were confused about which product to buy for their particular child. Everyone would make their products super-broad, like theirs said “fun for everybody ages 8 to 108.” So they came up with the idea for products that were one-year age range, like “JumpStart Kindergarten”. Big risk but sales exploded 20x increase and they sold 20 million copies.
4. Ignore “the experts.”
Bill created pay-per-click in 1998. Wall Street Journal and Yahoo both said it was the worst idea ever. Yahoo bought their company 5 years later.
5. Try the business idea in a small, cheap way first.
Bill created CarsDirect.com – their idea was that Bill wanted to be able to buy a car over the internet and have it delivered in a flatbed truck to avoid the hassle and lies from car salesmen. They put up the CarsDirect.com site without any car deals to see if anyone would buy through it. And sure enough, 4 people ordered cars that week. They quickly shut down the site, and drove down to a dealership and bought the cars and delivered them themselves. Then they built a business – forged relationships with manufacturers, etc.
The hallmark of success is perseverance. It’s sticking through it when you hit the inevitable hard times.
Sometimes the ‘first mover’ wins, but usually the better executor with the greater persistence wins.
7. It’s very hard or nearly impossible to know analytically whether the business will succeed or fail in advance.
There’s no tangible step to know when to stop. It’s a matter of judgment. Outside advisers can help.
8. Have regular brainstorming sessions. Bring in outside people to help.
9. Equity is a powerful way to motivate people.
Posted on August 5, 2011