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Startup 101: Why do it alone when you can learn from the legends themselves!


Entrepreneurship, some say, is a lonely battle. Rejoice, it’s no longer the case!

The stories of the founders of legendary companies such as Google, Dyson, Facebook, Paypal, LinkedIn, Twitter and Square are, literally, at hand – via podcasts in the voices of their legendary founders, or articles penned by them.

For wannabe entrepreneurs – as much as for those just starting out – it’s exhilarating to hear how Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google from their Stanford dorm or how Elon Musk developed the internal fortitude to build Paypal and Tesla Motors.

Hearing the war stories of the spectacularly successful – and the unsuccessful as well – can be invigorating and educative. Either way, your path to success will likely be easier to navigate if you explore the lessons learnt by those who’ve walked before you.

Sage advice today is no longer tightly held – in Silicon Valley or elsewhere. It’s freely available, if you only know where to look. My top three sources of advice and inspiration are:

#1. Stanford University’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar – a weekly speaker series where innovation leaders share their insights with aspiring entrepreneurs. You don’t need to be a $60k+pa fee-paying Stanford student to listen! Check it out here.

#2. Kevin Rose’s Foundation. Rose is a well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur who does the legwork for you in chasing down the most interesting startup business identities in order to understand how they overcame the challenges faced when building their businesses. Check out his stuff here.

#3. TED Talks. The most diverse selection of mind-blowing stories is available via TED Talks – on-demand access to the world’s most inspiring voices. These talks have been viewed more than one billion times. Check them out here.

In addition to the spoken word, secrets of building a successful business are being codified and shared in structured programs as well. Some gaining the most positive attention have been developed by Eric Ries and the Lean Startup Movement.

Lean Startup, borrowed from Toyota’s ‘lean manufacturing’, is a concept applied to early-stage product development with the goal of innovating quickly to achieve faster and more effective business growth. Some of you may consider it a strange connection. But back in the 1980s, Toyota introduced a range of initiatives that are just as relevant to a small business as a multi-billion dollar car business.

For example, Toyota introduced ‘just in time’ inventory management to reduce costs and stay nimble. The Japanese carmaker also introduced quality control checkpoints to identify mistakes during assembly as early as possible to ensure the least amount of time is spent on building a faulty product. Throughout, it maintained close connections with customers and suppliers to understand customer needs.

You can learn all these business critical lessons direct from the leading thinkers in this particular space – for free. Check them out here and here.

Ben Ross is a general manager for user experience & design at MYOB.. He previously lived in San Francisco where he was CEO of Quotify, a startup that helps homeowners find reliable local tradespeople.