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Entrepreneurs checklist

A big day yesterday at Auckland Business School for IceIdeas. The theme was growing another 3000 companies before 2020. Xero investor Peter Thiel was the drawcard for the event and really impressed the audience.

Highlight of the week for me was dinner with Peter and his team which is always incredibly motivating and resets perspective.

In my 6 minute slot later in the day I surveyed the audience to see what parts of entrepreneurship they’d experienced.  Finishing with who was signing up to be one of the 3000 companies. Later I thought there are a set of experiences that all us entrepreneurs have in common and should strive for.

Only a very few will do all of these things and you might be lucky enough to skip a few steps out but here is my checklist of experiences for being an entrepreneur …

The Entrepreneurs Checklist

  1. Borrowed money from family to start a business (thanks mum)
  2. Funded a business on your mortgage
  3. Presented a business plan to Angel investors
  4. Received angel funding
  5. Spent 3 weeks at a time on the road (the ‘drive by shooting’ as we call it)
  6. Sold your product over a webinar without a physical visit
  7. Lost sleep over making payroll
  8. Presented to a Sandhill Road VC firm (squirrel!)
  9. Received VC investment
  10. Hired an overseas employee
  11. Fired a friend
  12. Appeared on National television (terrifying!)
  13. Spoken in a room in front of 500 people
  14. Sold a business (Payday!  The moment when you look in your online bank account and see a big number there – woohoo)
  15. Do an Angel investment (I know I’m going to lose this but …)
  16. Take a company public
  17. Have people question your character in the media
  18. Become a Director
  19. Ring the bell

As a business person I think this is the ultimate experience to you can aspire to:

Going Public

When I grew up reading all of the Silicon Valley business books the ultimate experience was the IPO.

I saw a couple of typical twitter comments from the usual armchair critics following my session which which are useful to address.

he’s a director of the NZX – surely a bit of a conflict of sorts?

I guess when you’re a director of the NZX you have a pretty significant vested interest

Either way I don’t think IPO is a good direction for most biz

It might be more charitable to think that I became a Director of the NZX because I believe Public Companies are good. But anyway the point of Private versus Public is a good one.

Sure private companies are great.  Nothing wrong with them. Bootstrapping is also good and necessary for most early stage entrepreneurs. But for a business person the experience of doing a public company is a much greater challenge. It’s scary and exhilarating. It can be rewarding.  You’re looking after other peoples money and they are betting on you.

When you do go public there is a set of experience you will go through that includes:

  1. Building a senior team
  2. Selecting advisors
  3. Selecting a Investment Bank
  4. Negotiating fees
  5. Completing your IM
  6. A big legal review
  7. Doing the roadshow
  8. Building the book
  9. IPO Day –  ringing the bell
  10. Share price going down (and sometimes up)
  11. Public reporting
  12. Market announcements
  13. Board paper prepration and board meetings
  14. Annual meeting with shareholders
  15. Investor updates
  16. Acquisitions

These are fantastic experiences that only people running a public company share. Peter Thiel had these experiences at PayPal. The LinkedIn guys have just been through it. Steve Jobs has been running AAPL for a while. Zuckerburg is about to got through it.

Many business owners will be completely happy running a private company. But if we really want to grow we need a proportion of them to step up, attract a lot more capital, invest in R&D, hire more people, go global and give investors a chance to growth their wealth.

If our young entrepreneurs want to be like our business heroes, they should aspire to have all of these experiences. Some experiences are good, some will bad. But this is the full journey in entrepreneurship.

Your comments are most welcome.

 

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9 comments

Julian A Waters
9 July 2011 #

It was awesome to be in the room with so many people who’d been through many of those entrepreneurial experiences.

Is an IPO not just a means to accessing capital, a somewhat more demanding means that some others? Ticking off the IPO list seems a little masochistic as a goal in itself… the likes of facebook and others must be delaying theirs for a reason.

The one experience I really want is to build a great product that millions of people use. If an IPO is a step to getting there, I’ll be re-reading your posts on the process for sure & grateful for your trail-blazing!

Matt Collier
9 July 2011 #

Just doing my accounts and saw this post. Looked like a terrific event and very cool that Peter Thiel was a guest speaker. Loved the checklist thanks Rod and interesting perspective on IPOs.

Ben Kepes
9 July 2011 #

Hi Rod – good checklist for those of us who were in the room – figured I may as well start the ball rolling and fill it in FWIW…

Over to others now…

- Borrowed money from family to start a business (thanks mum) – +1, thanks Whanau
- Funded a business on your mortgage – yup, my first four
- Presented a business plan to Angel investors – been part of this process
- Received angel funding – in progress, watch this space
- Spent 3 weeks at a time on the road (the ‘drive by shooting’ as we call it) – not on the hop, but y’all know I spend plenty of time on the road
- Sold your product over a webinar without a physical visit – yup, the joy of a telecommuting consultant
- Lost sleep over making payroll – for sure, try running a manufacturing business in NZ
- Presented to a Sandhill Road VC firm (squirrel!) – nope
- Received VC investment – nope
- Hired an overseas employee – yeah
- Fired a friend – a friend AND a business partner, ouch!
- Appeared on National television (terrifying!) – Was invited, but no
- Spoken in a room in front of 500 people – Often
- Sold a business (Payday! The moment when you look in your online bank account and see a big number there – woohoo) – yup, although the business I sold (as opposed to the 4 I’ve kept held of) our involvement was mainly to help a friend out, we exited once he was secure
- Do an Angel investment (I know I’m going to loose this but …) – yup, although very small scale
- Take a company public – nope, not sure it’s really in my stars
- Have people question your character in the media – LMAO, don’t you know it
- Become a Director – Currently a director of half a dozen closely helds and a couple of CCOs along with governance on a few non-profits
- Ring the bell – see above re IPO

Leanne Summers
9 July 2011 #

I’d do an IPO.. In the hope of building a bigger company that could employ many people. The start-up world is exciting but ultimately there are still people out there who just want a job to support their families. Trailblazers will keep blazing the way but as Rod eludes to listing on the stock exchange can help many more than yourselves grow and surely it can help diversify the investors you’ve got too… I don’t know a lot about it but it seems that you’ve got more chance of aiming for the stars with an IPO. If it’s going well you can leave it in the hands of others so you can move on to the next thing.
Thanks for the checklist. I’ve got to start at the very bottom though!!

Erin Walshe
9 July 2011 #

I am just starting out on the process but the list looks good, good and long. After reading that article a couple weeks ago debating a public v private company its still a tough call. Both have pros and cons. But I guess if you want real growth you need real funding and that is what the IPO offers. Me, I am just doing it because someone said it couldn’t be done and now I won’t die wondering! To be in control of ones own destiny, to bring something to the marketplace that offers a solution, and to entrench your own culture into your own business…… does it get much better?!

Dennis Howlett
9 July 2011 #

Gr8 checklist but there is a counterpoint…Jim Goodnight at SAS Institute has been kicking butt and taking names for a very long time. According to some surveys his company is one of the best to work for anywhere in the US. Having spent time with some of his people I can genuinely say they are among the brightest I’ve been privileged to be around.

[...] the idea was triggered by one of NZ’s leading public CEO’s, Rod Drury of Xero, in his blog (http://blog.xero.com/2011/07/entrepreneurs-checklist/) where he noted that going public, and everything associated with it,  is one of the key [...]

Rory Birkbeck
17 July 2011 #

Excellent behind the scenes view. Loved all the personal bits, made it more real! Great having a list like this to aspire to. Thanks! It will be interesting to see where all our paths deviate!

Richard
20 June 2012 #

Hi – I was wondering if there are any foreign language versions planned?

Tnx

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