The best way to discover new country is through the people. I was extremely lucky to meet Harlan Beverly and I would like to share with you our conversation about what makes a successful entrepreneur.
About Harlan Beverly
Harlan Beverly, is an American entrepreneur who founded, developed and successfully sold two businesses: Bigfoot Networks, Inc., a gaming hardware company and Karmaback, Inc., a Social Networking Marketing company. Later Harlan was invited to take the lead of Key Ingredient, an Austin based startup focused on digital solutions for cooks (Online Recipes). He turned the business to a new level of profitability and successfully sold it.
Harlan has raised over $20MM in venture financing in the challenging intersection of entertainment and technology. Harlan has over 12 patents from his engineering career, has been published in dozens of books and articles.
Harlan holds PhD in Business and enjoys guest lecturing at University of Texas in Austin about his passion for startups and the convergence of hard science with Business. Harlan is a venture investor and an author of the book “Lean Startings” which teaches how to do a start up on your own.
Harlan’s blog: http://tytusblog.blogspot.com/
“I believed I could run the company better. I was tired of getting orders and wanted to be my own boss”
I think that the way a lot of people come to entrepreneurship is they don’t understand decision that management is making and they don’t necessarily agree with them and think they can do it better.
I was an electrical engineer. As an engineer we have to be very smart. We get a degree, we do good at maths and physics and learn a lot of stuff. So I thought I was smart and believed I could run the company better. I was tired of getting orders and wanted to be my own boss.
“Any business idea starts with passion. Once you have a passion, find a problem, build solution and start your company”
My first business Bigfoot Networks, Inc was born out of my passion to computer games. I extremely loved playing games and got to learn everything about it. While playing I found the problem which required solution. And the problem was the lag which impacted online gaming experience. So I invented killer network cards designed for gamers to make games played faster and better. It was a technology that bypassed all of windows and allowed all game networking running inside the cards. You just needed to slide the card into computer to get better gaming experience. Cards fully offloaded voice chat while you gamed, so talking to your friends and coordinating your actions was no longer impacting your gaming.
I presented my idea to hundreds of venture capital firms before I finally found an investor and launched the company.
“Passion, persistence, confidence, risk tolerance, ability to change fast are the key qualities I look in the entrepreneurs when making the decision about investing in their startup”
People with passion to what they are doing have their eyes lit up, they have energy and they are ready to put everything in a line if need be. In English we say “dagger and the teeth”. It is like you are willing to tackle the bear in order to achieve a success.
You have to be persistent cause everybody will tell you to give up. But the only way to success is to NOT to give up.
You need to speak with confidence.
You have to be risk tolerant, which means to be OK with failure. You will have to get customers or investors and you gonna get a lot of “No”. But it should not upset you.
You gonna learn through experience and you need to be able to change fast and adapt.
“Does confidence defeat fear? My answer is No”.
Confidence is like a mask which you put on the other people. Inside we all have doubts and fears and to ignore them is silly. We just should not let them show.
How do you get over your fear? Let it be OK to fail. Let it be not that such biggest success that you wanted. In your mind let everything be a learning experience regardless if you succeed or don’t succeed which sort of turns every failure into a little success.
“Have I ever failed? No never, not once in my entire life have I ever failed!”
The reason I am saying it is not because everything was going as I wanted. It is because I have always taken every failure as a learning experience which I consider to be a success. And if you go with this approach and you combine it with persistence, you gonna be extremely successful. Because you are learning and you are persistent, because and you are taking what you learn and you are changing it and adapting, and because you are not letting minor failures defeat you – you will eventually win.
“The best place to find ideas is your life”
It is easy to find ideas, everyone has ideas and the best place to find them is your life. Do things which you love. Whatever it is you do – you bike, hike, swim, go to concert, watch TV – that’s where you gonna find your idea, because it will connect to your passion.
“The only way to know if business idea is good or not is to launch it”
The question if idea is good or not that’s a way harder question. What I think is good idea usually isn’t, what I think is bad idea usually becomes a winner. It weird how it works.
The only way to know is to launch it, to start it. You need to try to get it launched with min investment.
When I am saying to launch or to sell I don’t mean to build. You can start selling before building it. For example, if you came up with a new backpack design, try to explain what it will do and get some preorders. If a lot of people want it, then start the production. Investors will be more interested if you get data which confirm it is a good idea.
“I dedicated a book to how to get business launched with as little money as possible”
I went to University of Texas and got introduced to the book “the Goal” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox. What was fascinating is that it was a narrative, it was a fiction which taught you business principals. I loved the concept and enjoyed the book and I read the whole thing, not like other standard textbooks. And most of my classmates enjoyed it too.
But there are really not a lot of such books. I though “hey, I will write a book like that but about startups”. So I wrote a book and it is called “Lean startings”. It is based on the concept of lean startup which is kind of a movement in entrepreneurship right now.
It is a narrative, so it’s a story, and a story comes from my son. He is 12 and he started his business and he failed, but he learned a lot. At the end of the book the reader will find out that the m
ain character is actually a child. He is able to do all those crazy things and the point is – so can you.
The book is available in electronic version here: http://leanstartings.com
“Try to make lots of things happen cause eventually something good will happen!”
I have two credos in my life. One of them “life is about experiences, try to have lots of them”. And another is optimism.
Try to make lots of thing happen cause eventually something good will happen. That’s why I get up every day. Something great gonna happen just around the corner! This is an optimism!
When I was working on my first business idea I had to meet hundreds of investors to get funding. I got habit to take selfies with people we pitched before the presentation. I wanted to remember the moment. You can celebrate the experience even if it doesn’t work out.
Get off your couch, stop watching TV and you will discover that you have 4 extra hours a day or more. Experience things, try and fail and love every second of it!
“Clear company vision and values statements helped me keep my people motivated”
I don’t have – and I don’t think anyone really has – enough energy as the CEO to be the only source of motivation. I just can’t. So what I do instead is I take the approach of two things. One – to have clear consistent vision that everybody knows and understands and has agreed with. So whether or not you like how the things go right now, at least you understand what we are trying to do and there is no confusion on that. Secondly, I am trying to create an environment that we all understand. I do that though different techniques but the main one is by having value statements. 5 or 6 values about how we want to operate and behave. We may not agree with every single thing but we know the rules under which we are supposed to operate. So if someone is consistently outside of those rules and cannot get himself there he usually leaves the company.
Vision and values get people though the day and they know what they are supposed to do and how they are supposed to do it. It is actually motivating when you know how everybody around you is supposed to be and what your piece is.
“I am a goal driven. This is what guides me in my life”
My first goal was to be my own boss. Achieved. Next was about money. I had success three times and achieved the money. Phd – achieved. Right now it’s about recognition, about giving back and being part of the community. My current goal is to publish my book “Lean startings” and persistence is how I’m gonna have it done.
I don’t really know what’s the next goal after that though. I keep saying people I am going to start another company and I probably will but I am not gonna start it if I am not able to put my energy into it, not until I have that thing which I want to achieve. I suspect that my next company is going to have some kind of social benefit aspect, like clean energy or education – I am really passionate about education. But still seeking that next goal.
About the author:
Oxana believes that every person’s life can make an intriguing story for a book which can teach a lot of wisdom. Life in Russia, England, France, Hungary, USA and lots of travelling around the continents introduced her to exceptional personalities. She loves to share stories about people and destinations which bring new ideas and help to find a way to your true self. This is why she started her blog “In search of the genuine”