Build a Company Backwards with $500K of Advice

In a world of uncertainty, we build companies! – solutions to problems we see around us.

I’ve been at this for over a decade and the same rules still apply:   Go with your gut, feed your passion, and hold onto great people you trust.

photo credit: swisscan via photopin cc

You’re reading this either thinking about taking the leap or trying to figure out how to make it work.   It’s hard.     But you’ll never hesitate to get out of bed.   You may even forget to eat lunch.   When was the last time you were so passionate about something your heart and brain were aligned.   But do it for the right reasons.   Are you in it for the money, the fame, the title, to make a difference, or a new life?

I’m going to offer you $500,000 of free advice today.   I’m sure others have different price tags on the cost of the lessons learned in business.

1.  Be very selective of who you partner with.   People make all the difference.   I still believe in loyalty and fighting to the death.

2. Please figure out how your business makes money.   The shorter the distance the better.   And have people on the team who can be clearly tied to this.   A no brainer to seeing “yes! They can do it”.   It will help you in the fundraising process and team building process.   It will be a crucial part of your success.

3.  Make a list of who you will target and go after it.

4. As CEO and founder of the company, you should have the ability to get people to follow you. To believe in an idea and what is to come.

5. Make lots of friends, and if you don’t have them right now, get started.   Now!   And make it something you’re doing everyday.   And be genuine.   And helpful.   I call it Karma Credits.   Do good, be generous, and share with others.   It somehow comes back.   You don’t have to know how, it just does.   Trust me on this one.   I’ve built a whole career and reputation on altruism.

6. Think through all the angles and bring advisors and experts to help you.     Know the answers to what can happen and how industries work from the inside.   Get specific.

7.  Don’t take shortcuts on your legal counsel.   Penny smart, pound foolish.

8. I like to build backwards.   Start from the need”¦ what the market wants”¦ what people/companies will pay for.

A few years ago I wanted to use the resources I had to bring something new to fundraising for charities.     Help organizations that spend all their money make more money by bringing some entrepreneurial thinking to the problem at hand.   Donations were declining and many nonprofits were looking for new ideas.   Despite a recession, entertainment spending was up.   There is more spending in advertising and marketing budgets than anywhere else.

We listened to causes, brands, celebrities, and consumers on what they wanted and needed to form the value proposition for     A number of passionate folk and I came together and created  — a charity auction platform integrating contest play to the social media of brands and celebrities, thus bringing amazing experiences to people but keeping the costs low.

To consumers its simply a fun auction site where the prizes are amazingly low and have full control over the outcome through persistent play.   Spend money to play for things they want and do good for a cause.

For charities, they needed help with backoffice logistics in the fundraising process, so we work together around prizes, outreach, and all the little pieces to make their lives easier online and off.

It also leveraged the masses to generate a new stream of money for charities versus relying large individual contributions.  Brands wanted more engagement and so we have become a platform easy for their marketing initiatives to plug into.

Always listen to your customers in building your products.   They will tell you the features.   The experience of your team will help you get the pieces needed to make it grow.

About the Author: Yao Huang is Managing Partner of The Hatchery (@thehatchery)
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