Categorized | Business Authors

Startup from the Ground Up : Practical Insights for Entrepreneurs – How to Go from an Idea to New Business

Cynthia Kocialski

Meet Cynthia Kocialski, she is the founder of three technology companies in computer hardware and software. Currently, she is a business consultant for start-ups. What makes her unique is that she has experienced many start-ups and seen them from the inside out, including the day-to-day trials and tribulations, not just the milestones and status presented to passive investors and outsiders. In the past 15 years, she has been involved in more than 25 start-ups and has served on various advisory boards. These companies have collectively returned billions of dollars to investors.

In addition to her work with start-up companies, Cynthia has held various technical, marketing, and management positions at IBM and Matrox Electronics. She holds degrees mathematics and engineering from University of Rochester and the University of Virginia. Cynthia has written many articles and white papers on emerging technologies. She also writes The Entrepreneurs’ Star-Up Blog and is a regular contributor to Wisepreneur.

What is your book about?

Cynthia has written the new book, “Startup From The Ground Up” which explores why an entrepreneur can only go so far with a great product idea. New businesses rarely fail because companies are unable to develop the product; they fail because the business factors aren’t addresses properly. The book examines the areas crucial in the early years such as why entrepreneurs should start with a concept plan instead of a business plan, why it is so important to start marketing your product as early as possible, and what investors will be looking for and how to entice them. The book provides practical, insightful and actionable tips and strategies.

 

What will readers take away from this book?

While each start-up is developing different products and services, the business challenges facing all entrepreneurs are similar. Many of the challenges are those that entrepreneurs don’t consider or don’t fully understand why they are so important. The book examines them, offers advice, and provides stories of how other entrepreneurs have overcome them.

Why did you write this book?

First time entrepreneurs make the same mistakes over and over again. It’s frustrating for everyone involved and it is unnecessary. Start-ups are risky enough as it is without reinventing the wheel. The book sheds light of some of the common missteps and guides them in the right direction.

Do you have a blog or engage in social media, what are the links, what do you talk about?

Yes, I write The Entrepreneurs’ Start-Up Blog (www.cynthiakocialski.com). The blog covers information and tips about funding, management, sales, marketing, and just about every aspect of a start-up company. It also profiles new start-ups, not only about their new products, but also about their experiences with creating and building a start-up. The blog offers profiles of key consultants and vendors that start-ups need to get up and running. For example, not many start-ups need nor can they afford to hire a full time CFO, but getting their perspective of how to set up the company for that eventuality will help them grow more efficiently.

I also have a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/startupfromthegroundup). This page reports news relevant to entrepreneurs like new venture funds, seed stage funds, and angel investors, as well as general news affecting the start-up community. There are quick insights, observations, and tips mixed in with the news.

Can you draw any parallels between the topic of your book, creating start-up companies, and the creation of the book itself?

Authoring, publishing, and marketing a book are a mini-version of a start-up company. It encompasses many of the same challenges and processes I talk about in my book.

I had to decide what I was going to write about that would interest readers. In my case, I had an established blog on entrepreneurship. It’s no different than a start-up having to engage with potential customers to define the product. I looked at what attracted readers most to my blog. This was funding and attracting investors, advice of how to market their product, and how to attract and engage with customers. I attend numerous networking events within the start-up community, and I observed which events had the biggest attendance and asked attendees why they were there. I read through Amazon reviews of other business books and compiled a list of what readers thought about other authors’ books – what they did well and what was lacking. All of this potential customer input coupled with my own experience with start-ups is how I choose the theme of my book on transforming an idea into the launch and early years of a start-up.

Once I had the topic, it then became a matter of the outline. In the start-up community, there is what’s known as the slide deck. This is the presentation format that investors expect. It’s a concise overview that introduces the start-up. There is also the evaluation process that investors’ use in deciding whether to fund a product concept. I used these as guides for creating the flow and structure of my book.

I even crowd sourced the title of the book by running surveys, asking respondents to name my book from a short description and then asking people to pick the best title. The most interesting aspect was having people tell me why they choose the best title. Many told me they disliked the word “success” in the title because it implied a promise that they said they knew the book couldn’t keep.

And like any other start-up, I needed to assemble a team. You can’t do it yourself. CEO does not stand for Chief Everything Officer. I had to find editors, book promoters, a public relations firm, and a publisher. I asked other authors for their opinions and advice.

At this stage, I am in the marketing phase, building awareness of my book and promoting it among readers. And just like a start-up, it seems like a long road. Progress isn’t as quick or as fast as I’d like it to be. Marketing is more work than the writing the book. A good rule of thumb for a start-up is the marketing effort is twice as long and twice as costly as the product development and something even more.

Certainly, when I do it again for my next book, I will be far more efficient at the process. I would be better at condensing the time it takes to produce a book. I conducted an engineering productivity survey once for a corporation. The conclusion was it takes about half the time to produce a similar second product as it did to create the first one. This being my first book, I had no idea of the lead times needed just to get into the schedules of many people I needed to create, market and sell my book. It can take 3 or 4 months to get into the line-up for a copy writer. Next time, I will be far better at coordinating all the activity.

What is the one thing that you did right?

Authors and entrepreneurs need to be constantly reaching out to other people and networking among their community. I spend a lot of time at events and reaching out to people across the globe through email. Becoming connected, building contacts and engaging in social media is an amazingly time consuming effort.

One venture capitalist told me it amazed him how often one of the key success factors for a start-up was a chance encounter with someone who helped them a great deal or provided that spark of inspiration that lead to the AHA moment. It’s one of the missteps start-ups often make – to develop a product in isolation and without customer input. They suddenly unveil their wondrous gizmo to the world and quickly realize that 7 billion people don’t care.

What is the best advice you never got?

Ultimately, it comes down to you – you as the author, you as the entrepreneur. The author will always be the book’s biggest and most passionate fan. Likewise, the entrepreneurs and founders of start-up are always the most passionate about their companies and its products. There will be people who want to be involved, people who like the idea, people who want to help, but no one will be as passionate as the creator and passion sells. It can’t sell quietly or silently. Notoriety matters, being findable matters, being known matters so shout your passion to the world.

What book(s) have you read that you would recommend to others?

I am an avid reader of non-fiction business books. I group books into two categories: interesting and useful. In particular, I am fond of self-published books because they are often written by professionals who are trying to convey the wisdom of their experience and often, these books hold a wealth of useful and specific information and tips. Some of my favorite books are “Small Changes” by Andy Blackstone on how to develop a sales process, “Metaphorically Speaking” by Anne Miller on how to communicate with customers in a simple and memorable manner, “Simple Publicity” by Melanie Rembrandt on how to do your own public relations, and “Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs” by Carmine Gallo.

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