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There’s a .00006% Chance of Building a Billion Dollar Company: How This Man Did It


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Saying you’re going to do a startup or you want to be a ‘serial entrepreneur’ has about as much meaning as saying ‘I’m going to jump off a plane.’ 

That’s the fundamental premise of how to think about building a business: figure out what you don’t know and then know it.

Cold calling is something that’s pretty critical, and something you can’t be afraid to do if you’re dealing with customers. You have to do it to understand what your customers want.

Total transparency about what’s working and what’s not makes it clear to everyone how you are going to succeed.

Innovation is the only sustainable competitive advantage a company can have.

We’re facing global stagnation in economic development, and innovation is the only way out.

Culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage a company can have.

Innovation is a part of culture. Or not.

Starting a company is not a decision to make based on financial outcome:

Just look at the numbers, he says: “There’s a 0.00006% chance of building a company that will grow to be worth more than a billion dollars. Even if you do raise money and sell a company or take it public, your median time to doing that is probably 49 months. Assuming there are three founders, your median expected payoff would be $300,000 each — that’s the equivalent of $73,000 a year. And the probability of making nothing is 67%. So if your motivation for doing a startup is financial reward, you’re better off going to Google, a hedge fund, choosing a career with stable income potential.”

Get rid of luck:

“When you say you got lucky, you got lucky because you didn’t know what was going to happen. The corollary is, if you know what’s going to happen, then there is no luck. There’s also no uncertainty and no risk,” Friedberg says. “In this context, shouldn’t your objective be to always know what’s going to happen? To always remove the unknowns?”

That’s the fundamental premise of how to think about building a business: figure out what you don’t know and then know it.

” 

If you make this your goal, at the end of the day you’ll be left with truth and facts. You’ll know what’s going to happen and how to achieve what you want. This is, of course, an ideal, but one worth striving for. “Every business has some degree of inherent risk,” Friedberg says. In fact, there’s a lot you probably don’t know. A brief sampling: 

  • Where is your market headed? 
  • What do your competitors have waiting in the wings?
  • Will people buy your product? Can you sell it at a particular price point?
  • Can you keep your operating costs low enough to sustain profit margins?
  • Are you actually adding value to people’s lives? Will they come back for more?
  • Can I recruit the engineers I need to build an even better product? 

“These are only some of the risks and uncertainties when you’re in the early stage, but the more of those you can identify, the easier it’s going to be for you to take them off the table,” he says. “Identify the unknown. Mitigate the unknown. Only then can you enable the outcomes you want, and that’s how you increase the value of your company.”

There are a lot of ways to bust open unknowns. Start with an ever-growing list of questions in the right-hand column of a spreadsheet and design tactics to move them into the left ‘known’ column. Ask your advisors and investors and customers the right questions, build things to test and be scientific and intentional about how you deploy them to your users. 

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