Secrets of a Serial Entrepreneur

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					JANUARY 2007

                                        Secrets of a Serial Entrepreneur
We’ve all heard of serial behavior. It        start ups are a leap of faith and the true   The first step to selling anything is to
spans everything from killers to              value of an idea is only discovered          find a user reference. Ideally it will be a
relationships, but “serial entrepreneurs”?    through execution.”                          marquee account that can influence the
What drives an entrepreneur to start                                                       market—someone others follow. Once
company after company? Do they have           However, execution requires energy,          you start getting users, selling more will
secrets that make it “easier”?                passion and determination to marshal the     be predicated on learning how people use
                                              resources. So, O’Donnell says the most       the product. “Those insights will tell you
Mike O’Donnell, president and CEO of                                important question     what business you’re really in, and you
locally-based, iCopyright is a serial                               to ask is: “Does       might get surprised,” says O’Donnell.
entrepreneur. Over the past 20 years,                               the idea motivate      This is a critical phase for entrepreneurs
O'Donnell has raised over $50 million for                           you?” If it does,      because it requires understanding the
new ventures. He co-founded one of the                              odds are you’ll do     buyer      pain      points,    modifying
first high-speed electronic service                                 the one thing that     assumptions, and possibly overhauling
bureaus in the United States. He was                                          separates    your product plan.
president, CEO and a founder of Ask Me                                   entrepreneurs
Multimedia Systems. After selling that                              from        others.    Phase 4: Hire—people valuation
venture he embraced the Internet                                    You’ll take action.    According to O’Donnell, “The costs of
revolution, then raised $25 million and                                                    ramping up with people, overhead and
founded iCopyright. Later that company                               Once you take         compliance can kill a company even
was sold, but not for long. Recently a                               action, O’Donnell     before it has a chance to succeed”. So he
group led by O’Donnell re-acquired                                   cautions, “Don’t      advises, “Fire yourself and contract with
iCopyright. Once again Mike serves as         look back and most importantly, don’t        everyone and for everything you can.”
CEO. What drives entrepreneurs like           worry about the ‘end game’ because it        This saves 25-30% in overhead
O’Donnell to keep at it again and again?      doesn’t matter. It’s all about the start.”   compared to hiring. O’Donnell adds,
                                              Investors always ask how it will end and     “I’ve found contractors know more and
Mike says serial entrepreneurs like           O’Donnell advises, “Tell them it ends        cost less and if you advertise for their
himself, are idea people. They see the        with them making a lot of money.” No         position every six months their
world as “oceans of opportunity” and are      one knows how it will end up. A start up     performance will stay up because they
driven by the belief that only 30% of all     is a marathon and you have to get started    won’t get too comfortable.” Another
the really great ideas have been staked       to finish.                                   secret? For positions you do have to hire,
out. The rest are there for the taking.                                                    O’Donnell advises using a 1:3 rule. Hire
                                              Phase 2: Innovate—Product valuation          three generalists for every specialist. He
Tricks of Free Enterprise                     How do you know if you have a good           explains, “Advice doesn’t build a
                                              product? What makes it special? Will         company; work is more important.”
According to O’Donnell “there’s nothing       people buy it? “You have to have a key
free about ‘free enterprise’.” Being          insight that provides a unique,              Phase 5: Partner—Channel valuation
prepared is key. He focuses each new          sustainable advantage,” says O’Donnell.      Serial entrepreneurs learn quickly that
venture into six phases and says you have     Do your homework. Get a working              they can’t do it all alone. Smart business
to execute each with passion and              prototype. Discover if it’s easy to copy     owners work on building up a network of
precision or you’re shark bait for            and have a strategy ready. Acting fast is    partners that know how to build a
investors, competitors, or the market’s       critical. O’Donnell explains, “Your          business. O’Donnell calls this “the
brutal natural selection process.             product will never be ‘ready’ so find a      piggyback strategy.” He says, “The real
                                              galvanizing event that forces you to get a   secret to accelerating growth is to
Phase 1: Start—Idea evaluation                prototype done so you can get feedback.”     leverage all of your partners and their
Is it a good idea? Is it big enough? Can it                                                resources—their knowledge, distribution,
create a new market? Will it change the       Phase 3: Sell—Market valuation               customers, people and budgets.” Think
world? According to O’Donnell, “All                                                        broad. Use your channel partners; offer
incentives to customers that make           investors are buying the future and the
referrals; tap into your professional       problem is no one knows what the future      These “Executive Insights” are based on
services network for all the help you can   will be. O’Donnell says, “Your chances       monthly presentations provided by
find.                                       for future success will be much better       leading entrepreneurs at the Northwest
                                            with the money than without it, so tell      Entrepreneur Network (, a
Phase 6: Finance—investor valuation         investors what they need to hear, and        non-profit organization dedicated to
“All money has the same value, however      then keep selling.” The company’s stock      helping entrepreneurs succeed. The
the costs to acquire it varies greatly,”    is your product. If you sell your product,   column is written by Cheryl Isen,
says O’Donnell. He adds, “The best          your stock will go up.                       founder of Isen & Company, a strategic
investors are customers, followed by                                                     marketing and public relations firm that
partners with a strategic stake.” This      Serial entrepreneurs really aren’t that      helps emerging companies increase
doesn’t mean there isn’t room for venture   different from others driven to create. In   corporate visibility and brand awareness
capital money. However O’Donnell finds      the same way painters must paint, writers    Contact Cheryl at (425) 222-0779,
VC’s better suited for later stage          must write, and musicians must play, or on the web at
investment where growth capital, not        entrepreneurs must venture—and usually
venture capital, is needed. However, all    more than once.