10 Sobering Lessons Learned After Teaching 88 Struggling Entrepreneurs For 6 Months : Under30CEO 10 Sobering Lessons Learned After Teaching 88 Struggling Entrepreneurs For 6 Months : Under30CEO
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10 Sobering Lessons Learned After Teaching 88 Struggling Entrepreneurs For 6 Months

| September 11, 2012 | 48 Comments

If you are an entrepreneur who loves to create value from thin air… this article is for you.

Last year on September 31st, 2011 I started a 6 month journey of mentoring with 88 entrepreneurs. We’ve been privately creating products out of thin air, and now it’s time to share the results.

We called ourselves The Foundation. I promised this group that they would create a software company with 10 paying customers in just 6 months, even if they had no idea what to build or how to code.

Yes, it was a crazy idea.

None of them had ever built a software company before. And only a few had built successful businesses. Most were just getting started into entrepreneurship.

We made a few mistakes along the way, and created 5 to 10 new software companies from the process.

Here’s are the 10 lessons I learned after mentoring this ragtag group.

  • You can start a business without an idea. Just go into a market like “Veterinarians” for example and Find The Pain. In that pain, you will come up with a product idea.
  • Entrepreneurs sabotage themselves by focusing on the least important parts of a business in the beginning. The only thing that matters in the beginning is selling your idea and getting money. This means you don’t need a logo, a website, or even a product. I caught a few members making logos before they ever had a paying user. They were scolded. We have members create “sales info packet PDFs” of what the product will do, and get customers to purchase based on that alone.
  • Entrepreneurs put off what they are most afraid of – failing. For most, that’s selling their idea. They will stick their head in the sand and build a product for 6 months, come up for air, only to realize no one wants it. I took that fear of failure and put it at the beginning before any products were made. We had some members fail through 5 ideas before they found their first profitable software product.
  • Entrepreneurs are lonely, but they thrive in a community with others. With a private chat room always on and 15 to 20 members sharing their setbacks, failures, and successes, a thriving connection was created. Live chat was wonderful for creating connections.
  • Entrepreneurs crush through results with accountability. When they saw themselves getting passed up by their peers, they took massive action. It’s easy to be lazy when it’s just you on the couch with your laptop. But when you are connected into a community who’s making progress, you don’t slack off for fear of being left behind.
  • Entrepreneurs who made excuses about not getting results typically suffered from a lack of desire. They were blinded by excuses, but in reality, just didn’t want it bad enough. Those that wanted it bad enough were (surprisingly) endlessly resourceful in building their first software business. Any obstacle was overcome. Their burning desire made it possible.
    1. Building software is totally possible even if you’re technically clueless… if you are taught how to outsource to developers. We had a 55 year old who barely uses Facebook create his first software company.
    2. Money is abundant to you… if you have a painful idea. When members joined, they thought money would be an obstacle. But they found it to be readily available once they developed salesmanship. The most important skill for an entrepreneur is salesmanship. I’m not talking about the image of being a sleazy car salesman, I’m talking about people who can actually ask for money. The question “Would you pay for this?” and “Which credit card would you like to use?” are surprisingly difficult questions for Entrepreneurs to ask. We pushed them through that barrier. Read SPIN Selling if you need help here.
  • Your background, age, race, and geographic location have nothing to do with being successful. We had dog walkers, chemical engineers, shy developers, and college students. All of them built software companies. The most successful student is in New Zealand working from his garage.
  • Entrepreneurs get stuck trying to find something they are passionate about. Picking a business you are passionate about is not as important as being passionate about the process of building a business. I’m not passionate about any particular business industry, but I am passionate about finding problems and solving them. Make your passion solving problems and adding value – then you can go almost anywhere and do anything. And most importantly, you can get started. Once you get started, you start to see dozens of new opportunities open up that never existed when you stood still.

In the end, this was one of the most grueling 6 months of my life. I had to take a few months off to rest from the intensity of always being on with them. I spent 5 days a week and hours a day with this group training them over the internet with live chat and conference calls.It was about 3 months in that I started to see their mindsets shift, and progress started to happen a lot faster. Once their mindset was reprogrammed, they became unstoppable.I firmly believe that anyone who wants it bad enough can do this. They can have a profitable meaningful business starting from scratch.

This is a message of hope for any aspiring entrepreneur. You. Can. Do. This.

Dane Maxwell is the creator of The Foundation – where we create web based products from thin air. We use a no nonsense approach to finding painful problems and solving them with software. When you visit The Foundation you can request a case study to learn how a 22 year old from new zealand built a profitable software company in 6 months without any idea on what to build, limited funds, and zero development skills.

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Category: Personal Branding, Startup Advice

  • http://www.thednetworks.com Dhawal D

    Amazing Sh*t!

  • CharlesAsh

    Awesome, awesome article and project…really inspiring and thanks for sharing the results…invaluable.

  • http://www.IAmNickArmstrong.com/ Nick Armstrong

    I get the idea that you don’t want to build a logo before you know if you have a solid product or not, but with the availability of Fivvr logos to “solidify” your branding in the minds of the target market – even if it’s just going to be used on a pamphlet – you have no reason not to snag a quick and dirty logo before your first pitch, especially if you’ve done your homework first.

    Just sayin… even $5 of commitment is enough sometimes to drag people off their couch and into reality.

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  • http://www.nathankauffman.com/ K-Team

    fantastic! very encouraging reality… looking forward to hearing/seeing more!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/danemaxwell Dane Maxwell

    It’s not a matter of money or how much time/energy it takes. It’s a flawed thought process to start with logo (but its still good to have one, eventually). In the beginning, customers don’t care about your logo. Ask a customer, “will you buy my product if I don’t have a logo?” I’ve asked my customers that question across the 7 different businesses/products I’ve made and never heard no. They just want to know their pain will be taken away, and or that I will provide an end result… I’m all for logo’s, just not until you have a paying customer. The order that someone gets a logo made determines (in my opinion) their skill in business. If a logo is made before a paying customer is had, they are a newbie. I talk more about this newbie mindset in my video at http://thefoundation.io/marketing-mindset/

  • http://www.facebook.com/danemaxwell Dane Maxwell

    Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/danemaxwell Dane Maxwell

    Thank YOU!

  • http://www.facebook.com/AlexWMurphy.socialize Alex Murphy

    Going to read this amazing article as soon as I finish building my target market cold E-mail list.

  • http://www.facebook.com/danemaxwell Dane Maxwell

    Perfect.

  • Larry Palmer

    It’s such an inspirational fire to feel after reading this article! THANK YOU A LOT!

  • http://twitter.com/FitMole Keith Lai

    Sh*t Dane, I am getting so ridiculously pumped for The Foundation. Even if I don’t get in (but hopefully I do, *hint*), at least I’ll know exactly what it takes to build a successful business. I’m in college right now, and I seriously have these thoughts about dropping out just so I can focus on building a business, but my parents would probably kill me if I did lol. But anyways, keep up the awesome work dude, can’t wait for the your next foundation video next week.

  • http://www.BeyondTheKM.com/ Beyond The KM

    Dane, can you write an article about how to outsource to developers?

  • http://www.facebook.com/margaret.charleville Margaret Charleville

    Thanks a million that was priceless and just what I needed to hear as I am just starting out

  • http://www.facebook.com/margaret.charleville Margaret Charleville

    Thanks a million that was priceless and just what I needed to hear as I am just starting out

  • http://www.facebook.com/margaret.charleville Margaret Charleville

    Thanks a million that was priceless and just what I needed to hear as I am just starting out

  • http://www.facebook.com/margaret.charleville Margaret Charleville

    Thanks a million that was priceless and just what I needed to hear as I am just starting out

  • http://www.facebook.com/margaret.charleville Margaret Charleville

    Thanks a million that was priceless and just what I needed to hear as I am just starting out

  • Plenty O’Kooch

    What color is the sky in your world, where there is a September 31st?

  • PJN

    Dane,
    Great article and truly inspiring. I will be sharing it on our LinkedIn group. Please feel free to join us. Pat
    The Next Generation: Strategic Growth Ideas for New Entrepreneurs

  • Naga

    Very Interesting! when will be the next one!

  • http://twitter.com/hankleber Hank Leber

    Excellent, Dane. Now, go make a ton of easy money consulting for the umpteen startup accelerators out there right now who don’t know what you know, but have a lot of money on the line. Lemme know if you need intros.

  • http://twitter.com/hankleber Hank Leber

    Excellent, Dane. Now, go make a ton of easy money consulting for the umpteen startup accelerators out there right now who don’t know what you know, but have a lot of money on the line. Lemme know if you need intros.

  • http://twitter.com/hankleber Hank Leber

    Excellent, Dane. Now, go make a ton of easy money consulting for the umpteen startup accelerators out there right now who don’t know what you know, but have a lot of money on the line. Lemme know if you need intros.

  • http://www.facebook.com/StevenQT Steven Tran

    Great stuff as always Dane. I feel like the more and more I read and watch your interviews the more my mindset is changing. I’ve already started and I’m getting some good responses from my cold e-mails, it’s surprising to see how some business owners are more than willingly to contribute to my “research”. Now I’m just getting over the fear of picking up the phone and talking to prospects. The suggestions you’ve made on going to thework.com and reading SPIN selling has helped immensely. Once I get the some phone calls in, I’ll be recording them and see how I can improve.
    I’d love to share any of my experiences with The Foundation, I’d love to help! or maybe I’ll start a blog about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/StevenQT Steven Tran

    Great stuff as always Dane. I feel like the more and more I read and watch your interviews the more my mindset is changing. I’ve already started and I’m getting some good responses from my cold e-mails, it’s surprising to see how some business owners are more than willingly to contribute to my “research”. Now I’m just getting over the fear of picking up the phone and talking to prospects. The suggestions you’ve made on going to thework.com and reading SPIN selling has helped immensely. Once I get the some phone calls in, I’ll be recording them and see how I can improve.
    I’d love to share any of my experiences with The Foundation, I’d love to help! or maybe I’ll start a blog about it.

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  • Rawxy

    Great article! While I didn’t design my logo before my product, I did spend a significant amount of time on such a task once I saw that people were buying our product. In fact, I even scaled back on all sales while I focused almost exclusively on the branding and packaging – I know some mentors thought this was a horrible idea and advised against, but as an ex-creative director, I believed in the power of good design. Sure enough, one year later, our whimsical design has proven to be a driving force in setting our product apart from existing competition and enticing new customers to give our products a try (it does help they are delicious too!)

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  • OBVAVirtualAssistant

    Wow, lots to digest.
    Thanks for generously sharing this useful info. Especially appreciate the
    acknowledgment that for some businesses, the goal may not be tens of
    thousands but a few hundred solid ones.

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  • Shayne

    This is great, Mindset Ninjaing

  • http://twitter.com/AIMStarget AmericaIMSolutions

    Greatly inspiring. That’s right Problem Solving a sure eye opener…

  • http://www.facebook.com/SethDiggs Seth Diggs

    Thanks Dane, i’m in the middle of development for a project and at times it can be really challenging. This post caught my eyes on one of those days things seem impossible and changed my mindset.

  • Konstantin

    excellent article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mileena.bey Mileena Bey

    Awesome article! This really help me understand the mindset of some of the novice networkers I deal with lol. If your an entrepreneur like myself feel free to add me on Fb =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/danemaxwell Dane Maxwell

    Dude. Awesome glad it helped.

  • http://www.facebook.com/danemaxwell Dane Maxwell

    So happy to hear this Steven!

  • http://www.facebook.com/danemaxwell Dane Maxwell

    Hank, yes, I’d love to help startups not fail. Please do the intros via facebook.

  • http://www.facebook.com/danemaxwell Dane Maxwell

    Sweet!

  • http://www.facebook.com/danemaxwell Dane Maxwell

    That’s more like a mini-report of about 20 pages :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/danemaxwell Dane Maxwell

    THanks man.

  • http://www.facebook.com/danemaxwell Dane Maxwell

    YES.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AAkademiks Alexander Adikimenakis

    Hey man i feel you! I have the same problem: stop with school to work on my projects or waste away cramming useless facts just to appease my parents..It’s like living a double life man, i guess that’s the trep life forya. Anyways, my advice for you is to try and stay in school but also launch some basic version of your product and get some feedback. If it flops at least you have school as a backup.. only if it takes off would i then consider ditching the matrix and taking on the opportunity. Once again you can always go back, there really inst a time limit when it comes to entrepreneurship. Its a life-long thing and It has way more to do with you making something of yourself instead of depending on a degree to land you some job. If you’re like me you’d much rather create your own job and be your own boss..I could go on about this forever as thinking up creative businesses are my passion. I’m just happy more people are becoming unplugged and realizing they can do so much more than society would have them believe. Always follow your dreams man! Best of luck!
    -AL

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