My Best Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs and Tech Startups


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moving at a pace that will offer continued long-term growth? Think about the market as well. Is it expanding too fast? Is it too crowded? Are customer demands constantly changing? Do you have differentiators that will allow you to attract and keep your customers long-term?

“Knowing how fast or slow the technology and the market are moving will allow you to understand your odds of succeeding with the resources you possess,” according to the Harvard Business Review study.

Once you’re in the market, it’s all about sustaining the momentum. Quickly build a solid customer base of people who can help influence other buyers. And keep innovating—it’s why Apple is still ahead of the game after all of these years. Remember that time is no longer a luxury—and if you want to succeed, you can’t get too comfortable. You have to move, keep moving and innovating.

Go Big or Go Home

Back in 2002, just after the dot-com bubble had burst, I took a big risk to become the CEO of Zaplet—a struggling company that had very strong technology but was running out of cash, and was having trouble attracting new customers. Investors had begun to give up on the company, but I truly believed in its potential and vision. So, we downsized the company, merged it with another startup, MetricStream, and re-focused our vision on compliance and risk management. Today, analysts regard MetricStream as the leader in governance, risk, and compliance apps—we have hundreds of customers around the world and a 50 percent year-over-year growth rate.

If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to be prepared to take risks—big risks. Jeff Bezos knew this feeling when he quit an established finance job to start a company named Amazon that would sell books online. Elon Musk knew that feeling, too, when he sold his startup to eBay, and used his earnings to fund two risky new businesses—SpaceX and Tesla.

So, my advice: take risks! But don’t gamble blindly. Go in with your eyes wide open. Measure the odds of success, and understand the worst-case scenarios so that you can make informed decisions.

I’ve always said that risk and opportunity are two sides of the same coin. If you know your risks, if you understand how to manage them, then you don’t have to be afraid of risk-taking. In fact, with this approach, you can actually thrive on risks.

Parting Notes

Starting a business can be scary, challenging, and a lot of hard work. But if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s the importance of taking a chance. As American scientist James Bryant Conant once said, “Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.”

So, my advice to all of you aspiring tech entrepreneurs and startups out there is to put your big ideas to work. We need you to help lead us into this exciting world of tomorrow. Just remember along the way: First, focus on building the “A” team by recruiting diverse skill sets and backgrounds; this team will help take your vision forward. Second, don’t forget that speed is the name of the game; move swiftly, and keep riding on that energy, excitement, and momentum. And lastly, go all in; the most successful people I know are the ones who not only have the big vision, but who also put their passion, heart, and soul into everything they do.

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Shellye Archambeau is CEO of MetricStream, a Palo Alto, CA-based company offering governance, risk, compliance, and quality management solutions to enterprises in the pharmaceutical, medical device, high tech manufacturing, energy, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, food and beverage, and automotive industries. Follow @metricstream

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One response to “My Best Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs and Tech Startups”

  1. Great stuff Shellye. Interesting point about the first mover advantage – I’ve read a lot of material recently on how ‘first mover advantage’ misses the point. What matters is having the ‘last mover advantage’ i.e. being the company that prevents all meaningful future competition.

    Reason being, the first mover usually has to do all of the work in terms of research, legislation, problem solving – whereas the second / third mover can ride the coat tails of that work and improve on it.

    We recently launched, which is certainly not the first of its kind, but by seeing what has / hasn’t worked for previous similar projects we’ve been able to cut years off of testing out different marketing channels. Not to say either approach is better, but it’s interesting food for thought.