Startup Lessons from Bob Dylan

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Startup Lessons from Bob Dylan

Entrepreneurs think big, with visions of iconoclastic products and services that transcend markets.  To help these lofty goals, entrepreneurs must learn lessons from innovators in other industries.  Today, we turn to the freewheelin’ Bob Dylan for some unconventional startup advice.

1.     Know Your Song Well Before You Start Singin’.  Entrepreneurs can’t wait to tell the world about their big idea.  But before you pitch to potential investors or customers, consider the details and consequences of your business choices, scope out the competition, test your hypothesis for validation, line up great advisors (have you hired Perkins Coie yet?), and seek constructive criticism. If no one has pushed back on your idea, be worried.  After all,

“Half of the people can be part right all of the time.
Some of the people can be all right part of the time.
But all the people can’t be all right all the time.”

2.     The Times They are a-Changin’.  Entrepreneurs invest huge amounts of time and capital in startups.  This can cloud your judgment, as you may fail to recognize that the world is not the same as when you first started your business.  Don’t be the stubborn entrepreneur that is so consumed with solving yesterday’s problem that you fail to pursue tomorrow’s opportunity.

3.     It Ain’t You, Babe.  Entrepreneurs must cope with many disappointing departures during the life cycle of a startup, whether from exiting investors, employees, or even co-founders.  Don’t take this personally.  Remember that others have less emotional attachment to the startup, because it is still a business. Tell your former partners:

“I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don’t mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right.”

4.     Keep Pledging Your Time.  Entrepreneurs should not abandon work product even if they hit a brick wall.  You may only be one step from success, so pay attention to the newest technologies, shifting regulations, market trends, and the latest gossip. The answer may be “blowin’ in the wind.”

5.     Like a Rollin’ Stone.  Entrepreneurs need to seize momentum when business picks up speed.  When you’ve got momentum behind you, you’re on your own, and you’re in a complete unknown, you may want to consider some merger and acquisition activity to keep your startup infused with fresh ideas.  Consider telling your competition:

“I ain’t lookin’ to compete with you,
Beat or cheat or mistreat you,
Simplify you, classify you,
Deny, defy or crucify you.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.”

6.     Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.  Okay, maybe that’s not from Bob Dylan, but he did tell us that “while money doesn’t talk, it swears,” and it’s true that entrepreneurs can be hounded the moment they succeed.

If you wake up in the morning and don’t care if it’s gonna rain, because you’ve got a head full of ideas that are drivin’ you insane, then you might just have the itch to build another startup. Hopefully you’ve stayed forever young and preserved those quirky entrepreneurial traits that helped you make it this far in the first place.

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