First Friday: Breakfast with an Entrepreneur in Residence

If you’re researching how to start a new business, it may be time to get your nose out of the textbooks and get to work. According to entrepreneur Peter Karlson, there are better ways to start a company from scratch than following a textbook’s guidelines.

September’s First Friday Speaker, Peter Karlson, is the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur in Residence, working with the Chamber’s Economic & Community Development as a resource for business owners, organizations and collaborators.

He says people start three types of businesses:
1) Lifestyle – based on the lifestyle you want to maintain (keeping a life apart from the business)
2) Growth – Higher stress, risk and reward
3) A Hybrid of Lifestyle and Growth

What type of company do you want to start? Do you know what do you need to get started? What kind of help do you need? The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce may be able to help. At the Chamber you can get entrepreneurial expertise if you demonstrate you’re willing to learn.

“We look for companies that want to grow,” Peter said, “scalable growth companies.” The Chamber of Commerce sees where these companies are and gives them resources to get them back on track.

The Chamber’s EntreCenter is a resource for local and regional entrepreneurs, linking businesses to the expertise, networks and tools they need. According to their website, the EntreCenter’s purpose is “to accelerate business growth and development, resulting in increased community wealth, year round job creation and economic development opportunity.”

The Chamber is especially helpful in getting growth companies off to a good start.

If you’re starting a growth company, not only do you need a substantial market, you need scalability of people, process and product.

Instead of starting with a business plan, Peter says to search for business model first. Find and test your hypothesis, using experimentation and customer feedback to help build your model. Get out and talk to your customers. As you learn from your customers and your experiments, iterate through different versions and make course corrections.

Put your ideas to use instead of spending all your time writing a hypothetical business plan – and be ready to “fail fast.” If you’re a startup, Peter says, you’re not a business. So you don’t need a business plan. Build your prototype and if it fails, move on.

Customer + Problem = Business
Peter says to experiment with the model and then start planning. It’s a customer-focused process, rather than creating in a vacuum. If you’re in stealth mode, you’re not doing the right research and you’re not in the position to get feedback.

He warns that if you’re not looking at the customer first, there may not be a viable market.

The Chamber may also be helpful in connecting business creators with funding. Peter says there’s a robust angel community out here – you just don’t hear about it. One way to discover them is through the Entrepreneur Resource System (ERS) demo days, when invited angels are shown fledgling projects.

Also, if you’re a great creator, Peter encouraged you to find a great sales partner. If you can find one or more people to be on your team, it’s a more fundable situation.

One way to find a great people to work with is through a StartUp Weekend. The first Start Up Weekend on Cape Cod, last March, was very successful. The next scheduled is weekend is November 22-24, which coincides with Global Start Up Week. At StartUp Weekend, you’ll listen to pitches, like one, join a team and have something to show by end of weekend. There are also global sponsors donating resources – like Google, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Biz Spark.

Creators who have done StartUp Weekend might take it to the next level at Start Up Weekend NEXT  – a five-week course that teaches customer development and new entrepreneur techniques.

There are also Meet-Ups

Other resources Peter mentioned are: (“If you’re going to write a business plan, use the SCORE template.”) (“how to not screw up your start-up”)

Inspired? It may be time to stop reading, and start doing.

(But before you stop reading, remember that October’s First Friday will be at Cape Cod Media Center.)

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