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Y Combinator co-founder’s advice: Don’t fail faster, just don’t fail

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) The Valley loves to sling around the phrase, “fail faster,” but there’s actually a better way.

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Bucking the “fail faster” mantra

Not failing is better than failing fast.

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Jessica Livingston, the co-founder of Y Combinator gave a keynote at a Female Founders Conference and laid out the alternative to the “Fail Fast” philosophy: Don’t fail at all.

How not to fail

Jessica has seen hundreds of companies go through the Combinator and talks about her real observations of what makes a successful founder. The first, and maybe most important point, is:

1. Make something people want
“Nothing else you do will matter if you’re not making something people want. You can be the best spokesperson, the best fundraiser, the best programmer, but if you aren’t building a product that satisfies a real need, you’ll never succeed.”

This is actually the motto of the Combinator and central to everything Livingston has to say.

2. Stay focused
One characteristic Livingston sees in the most successful entrepreneurs is the focus to stay with the vision. She gives a list of distractions that occur over and over including networking, having coffee with investors, arguing on social media, attending conferences, spending time on PR before you are even making something people want, and the last item is “Worrying about being a woman in tech. And that’s a theme that reoccurs in address. In fact, its the next item on the list:

3. Don’t worry about being a woman
Livingston doesn’t aim to minimize the challenges of being a female entrepreneur. Rather she worries that the amount of time the media spends on taking about it will discourage female entrepreneurs:

“While I’ll tell you that it is going to be harder for you as a woman, it’s not going to be so much harder that it will make the difference between success and failure. If you want to start a startup, go ahead and do it and don’t let yourself be intimidated or distracted by all the noise.

4. Measure your growth
If you follow those first few steps, Livingston continues, you’ll see growth. And keeping tabs on it is important. A good start up will see about 10% growth a month. If you’re not making that, you might no be focused enough or you might to be making something people want.

5. Know if you’re default alive
It’s not enough to have growth if you’re going run out of money. Yo need to know if your business baby is “default alive” or default dead”.

Do your expenses stay the same while your revenue continues to grow? Congratulations, you have a pulse.

Livingston is amazed how many start up founders have never thought to do this simple math.

6. Keep expenses low
This is the number one reason startups run out of money. And because the number one money eater is salaries, this usually means hiring too many people. This gets a lot of new ventures in trouble after their initial phase.

7. Fundraising gets harder
Founders who have a good amount of seed money think it will be easy to replicate that success, but that is often not the case. Series A investors have a very different mindset than seed investors. While the latter are looking for promise, the former are looking for performance.

And nothing says bad performance like needing more money early on.

The takeaway

There’s a lot of logistics and hope in this talk for all founders, but especially female entrepreneurs. It’s a tough business world out there for you, but also for everyone. So synthesize the knowledge of Livingston and other pioneers, take your ideas, and make something great.

And remember: just don’t fail.

#JustDon’tFail

Felix is a writer, online-dating consultant, professor, and BBQ enthusiast. She lives in Austin with two warrior-princess-ninja-superheros and some other wild animals. You can read more of her musings, emo poetry, and weird fiction on her website.

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Business Entrepreneur

How to know when it’s time to go freelance full time

(ENTREPRENEUR) There may come a point when traditional work becomes burdensome. Know how to spot when it is time to go full freelance.

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freelance productivity

Freelancing is often thought of as a mythical concept, something that is almost too good to be true. While it isn’t all about hanging out at home in your pajamas all day, being a freelance is something that is completely possible to be successful – assuming you do your homework.

Recently, a friend of mine who is a licensed esthetician was no longer happy with her position at the salon and spa she worked for. The set hours were becoming a burden, as was having to divvy up appointments between another esthetician within the salon.

She noticed an increasing number of people asking her if she could perform services (eyebrow and lip waxing) from her home, as they preferred not to go into the hectic salon. My friend also found an increase in requests for her to travel to bridal parties for their makeup, rather than the parties coming into the salon.

It was around this time that my friend began to seriously consider becoming a freelance esthetician, rather than a salon employee. After about six months of research and consideration, she decided that this was the best route for her.

Below are the reasons she felt ready to pursue this option, and if they resonate with you, you may be ready for a full time freelance career.

1. She had a number of built-in clients and a list of people she could contact to announce her at-home services. Doing this at the start of one’s career would be very difficult without a contact list and word-of-mouth references, so it’s important to have…

2. …experience! My friend had worked for a number of salons over the years, and had the experience of working with all different types of clients. She also learned what she liked and didn’t like about each salon, which were pieces that factored into her own work-from-home space.

3. Since she had years of experience and had done all of the necessary aforementioned research, she knew what was expected of her and knew that getting a freelance career off the ground wouldn’t be a walk in the park. Operating a freelance career is completely on you, so you have to be 100 percent dedicated to making it work – it won’t just happen for you.

4. Once she began thinking about this idea nonstop and became more excited, she knew it was time to move forward. At first, the “what ifs” were daunting, but became more positive as time went on. If the idea of being a freelancer elicits more smiles than frowns, definitely take the time to consider this option.

5. In addition to the clients she already had, she also had an amazing support system who helped her develop her freelance brand and get her at-home business up and running. Having a solid group of people in your life that will help you is crucial, and any offer for help should be appreciated.

Other things to consider are: do you have enough money saved in case the freelance venture takes longer than planned to take off? If not, maybe stick with the day job until you feel more financially secure.

Jumping into something too quickly can cause you to become overwhelmed and drown in the stress. Make sure you’ve covered every single base before making this leap. Good luck, freelancers!

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Business Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs’ edge – working quality, not quantity hours

(ENTREPRENEURS) A huge advantage of the entrepreneur life is full control over your day – and using your hours wisely (and creatively) boosts productivity, even if it means sleeping in and staying up late. Think quality, not quantity.

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So often, we hear the phrase “quality, not quantity,” which can be appropriately used to describe ideas we give to our boss or the amount of effort we put into volunteering. The long and short of it is – don’t half-ass something because you think it’s fulfilling the need of “quantity.”

Quality is always so much more important when it comes to output in your job. Like, okay, great, you worked 11 gillion hours this month, but what did you actually accomplish? Did you finish endless busy work and take pictures for social media of how busy you are? Or did you grow your bottom line?

Over the years, we’ve heard a lot about flex hours and more working from home options, but a hot new idea is (you guessed it) quality hours, not quantity hours. Sometimes fitting into that 9-to-5 framework is satisfying the quantity aspect, but are we really being as productive as we should?

Many people argue that we should be working less in order to produce more. Wait, don’t leave, let me explain.

Does it really seem like the best idea to be working when your energy level is in the negatives? Probably not. This opens the door for more mistakes, less engaged work, and less output. If you’re a night owl and your brain fires on all cylinders when the sun has gone down, is it really worth focusing your work energy during the hours that your brain isn’t fully on?

If we work only when we know we’re going to be productive, we can really make the most of our time. Now, don’t get that confused with “sit around and wait for lightning to strike and THEN work,” it means schedule your tasks based on when your mind is typically the most productive.

When are you most productive? In the morning after you’ve had a quick job and some coffee? Or post mid-afternoon when you’re full-on awake? Jonas Downey pondered this question, and said, “I’m usually at my creative peak in the mid-morning and lose steam after lunch, so I shuffle my work accordingly. I do exploratory freeform stuff in the morning, and I save routine tasks (like implementing something I already know how to do) for the afternoon. I also have a rather short attention span, so I take tiny breaks a lot.”

He notes that working just to hit a certain number of hours is counterproductive, because in that time, there are likely to be hours worked when you are not at your best. Click To Tweet

Be honest – do you do your best work when your head is in the clouds, or when you show up to a task, raring to go?

Glorification of the 80 hour work week is dead in most circle, so consider scheduling yourself for times and days that your brain will cooperate with you instead of work against you and force you into menial work that feels like you’re accomplishing tasks!

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Business Entrepreneur

Is this normal (you wonder about your business)?

(ENTREPRENEURIALISM) It can be lonely not being able to openly ask potentially embarrassing questions about your business – there’s a way to do it anonymously…

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Entrepreneurialism is wildly rewarding – you are fully in control of the direction of your company, and you’re solving the world’s problems. But it’s also isolating when you’re not sure if what you’re experiencing is normal.

Sure, there’s Google, news networks (like ours), and professional connections to help you navigate, but sometimes you just want to know if something simple you’re seeing is normal.

Is Instagram Stories really where it’s at? Probably not if you’re a consultant.

Is it normal for an employee to attempt to re-negotiate their salary on their first day? Nope, but how do you keep the desirable employee without being bullied into new terms?

Do all entrepreneurs spend their first year in business as exhausted as a new parent? Sometimes.

You have questions, and together, we can share our experiences.

We have a brand new Facebook Group that is already wildly engaging, active, and you’d be amazed at how selflessly helpful people are – and we invite you to be one of them.

Want to anonymously ask a question about something you’re unsure is normal or not?

Click here to submit your question, and we’ll select as many as possible to discuss in the Facebook Group!

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