Jason Baptiste


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#winning: 6 @charliesheen quotes to make you a better entrepreneur

By Jason Baptiste on March 4, 2011

charlie sheen winning resized 600Over the past week there has been a huge focus in the media and even the geek internet culture around Charlie Sheen's supposed breakdown. He's been doing a lot of interviews, but mixed in are a lot of interesting quotes that can be applied to entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur is on a thin border between insane and brilliant.

"Defeat is not an option. CBS picked a fight with a Warlock."

Most entrepreneurs don't end up losing because of market forces or what can be attributed to specific failures. At the end of the day, entrepreneurs fail because they decide to give up and accept defeat as an option. When starting a company, Elon Musk referred to it as the equivalent of eating glass and staring into the abyss on a daily basis. From day one, you need to realize that there is nothing else you can do accept win. It may be a hard road, but complete and utter defeat is NOT an option. Take a look at Airbnb. They failed to attract any attention and failed continuously for not only days, months, but actually years. Instead of accepting defeat, they persevered and kept going. Most startups don't die due to specific circumstances, but because they commit "suicide". Here are two HIGHLY suggested links:

Airbnb story from Startup School:  

Paul Graham on "How Not To Die": 

"Everyone will say: Don't be special, be one of us! NEWSFLASH: I am special, and I will never be one of you"

No one will understand what you do. They will hear the entrepreneur word and think you are crazy, broke, or some combination of all three. You have to ignore those that don't understand us. We're a crazy breed and we're special. If this were for everyone, then it wouldn't be special. As an entrepreneur you have to have thick skin and trust that it will all work out. Even when it does, you will always feel as if the respect you deserve isn't where it should be. Steve Jobs said it best with a quote that goes along the lines of "You have to be insane to do this and you have to love it. Any sane person would do what a sane person would: just quit and give up." Focus in on being different and drown out the noise. They will be fast to hate on you and they be move even faster to congratulate you.

"It (my brain) fires in a way, not particularly from this terrestrial realm"

As an entrpreneur you need to think at a level that is not from this world. Look back at the legendary Apple ad campaign about "Think Different". The rest of the world happens to be a fickle bunch. On the one hand, they want to vilify you for being an entrepeneur and take you down a level or two. On the other hand, they want something that is outside the box and pleases them. The only people capable of doing that are entrepreneurs. If what you're doing is criticized as "tame", then you are doing something very wrong. At the end of the day, you should seem as if your creation is from another planet. Your brain needs to think in a manner that is truly extra terrestrial.

"I have one speed, one gear ... go!"

There is no slow down mode when it comes to entrepreneurship. You need to be always be five steps ahead and pushing on red line. The main advantage of a startup is pure acceleration and speed. Speed in the real world is calculated by distance over time, I'll declare that startup speed is the amount you want to accomplish (alot) divided by the amount you want to focus on (a small focused portion where you have domain expertise). Accomplish something sizable and focus on what matters. Say no and cut out a lot for each version. It will let you move faster and stay in that one gear that matters: Go!

"Can't is the cancer of happen. aka I can't do it."

Yoda said it best: there is no try, there is only do or do not. As an entrepreneur, whether you made something happen is a very binary answer. Either you have made it happen or you have not. By saying "I can't do it", you are setting yourself up for failure and almost certain death. Take a look at the most successful companies in the technology sector and you will realize that "can't" is not in their DNA. The best companies defy the laws of possibility and do what many would simply throw into the "can't" category. Dream big and look for scenarios where many would say can't and make something happen.

"I exposed them to magic. I exposed them to something they'll never see in their boring normal lives...they'll live with that for the rest of their lives."

Your product needs to be the equivalent of pure and utter magic. One of my favorite Techcrunch articles from Paul Carr is centered around this notion of technology being magic. You need to wow people, many of which you will never meet. The best products will seem like magic to most of the general population and be an escape from their normal boring lives. A few days ago someone asked me, "How does Onswipe do what it does?" and I answered back with a simple response: "Magic. We code magic."

It's not about finding celebrity trends or other silly things. It's about looking in places you would have never thought of for inspiration to make a better product and a better startup. Many of your influences will come from the startup world itself, but many will come from random offbeat sources. No matter what, just keep #winning.

You Should Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jasonlbaptiste, Friend me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jasonlbaptiste, Email Me: jbaptiste@onstartups.com, or even call: 201.305.0552

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9 Ways To Disrupt And "Hipmunk" An Industry

By Jason Baptiste on February 28, 2011

disrupt and hipmunk resized 600hipmunk [hip-muhnk],   1.  verb:  To bring sexiness and simplicity into an existing industry with a fresh approach that delights people.  Example:  The real estate mortgage industry really sucks.  Someone should hipmunk it.  2. noun:  Startup funded by Y Combinator that makes it easier to find flights. 

The word disruption is thrown around way too much.  It's often used to describe ideas that are not disruptive.  Recently though, I've noticed a trend of YCombinator backed startups that follow a similar theme: Go after an industry or process that is excruciatingly painful and make it better. Sure all startups are about solving a pain point, but in the case of Hipmunk and others, the pain is chronic and unbearable.  

Find Something Tied To A Process That Consistently Sucks

Some things are just a pain and never ever change. The industries that can be hipmunked are ones that you repeatedly ask yourself "Why hasn't anyone made this better?" It can't be a temporary cure either, it needs to be a full blown relief of pain. In the case of HelloFax , it seemed like a silly idea at first to most. Fax machines are a thing of the past it would seem, but in reality they aren't. With all of the innovation we've had, trying to send a fax is still a pain. EFax is cumbersome and real fax machines are far worse. Every blue moon, there is no way to do anything other than send a fax. It's still horrible. With HelloFax, they took a process that consistently sucks and made it just work.

Simple And Clean Interfaces Come First

One of the best ways to make a product enjoyable and easy to use is with an interface that is simple+clean. Give the user what they want, the bare essentials, and make the information easy to digest. It's not about being the prettiest either. I love the hipmunk interface, but it's not whiz bang beautiful. It's clean, simple, and organizes information well. The flow of information should come first and foremost in a clean interface. Problematic and painful industries usually have a high amount of friction between the customer and information. They usually want to access or deliver information in a fast manner, but it often takes way longer than they would like.

It Will Probably Be Unsexy...So Make It Sexy

The industries most ripe for disruption are usually the unsexy ones that no one wants to touch. That's okay, look at it like the startup version of the popular teen movie "She's All That". Find the ugly one and turn them into something absolutely beautiful. It's not in the DNA of unsexy industries to think about everything else in this article. That's why they're unsexy and people despise them. The travel industry? Absolutely boring. Look at email. Everyone thinks that email is long dead and gone, but at the end of the day it's still widely used. Companies like Groupon and Thrillist are growing faster than any other company before. They figured out how to leverage an unused, unsexy asset and make it work for the user.

Take a look at Square.  Payment processing is a sleezy, unsexy, and just headache of an industry.  Square took that and turned it on its head.  They added a beautiful interface and made it frictionless for real world merchants to have a payment processing engine without the headaches involved.  

Call Out Your Competitor

Don't be afraid to call out your competitor and wage war. You should be respectful of course, but it's okay to stir the pot. Look at Salesforce. They proclaimed the end of downloadable desktop software and Marc Benioff was no stranger to letting the world know the companies that are his enemy. His spat with Microsoft is supposedly one of the greatest things that ever happened to the company!

Deliver Great Support

Most unsexy industries don't have a love for customer support. It's not that they deliver bad customer support, it's just that they don't deliver GREAT customer support. Zappos for example... they sell shoes. Who would have ever thought that a shoe retailer could be an iconic company? Well, Zappos is really a company with great customer service that happens to sell shoes. If you have a passion for support that mirrors Zappos, you can extend the great experience you deliver with your application to the real human interaction you may have with customers.

Look For An Industry That Rarely Changes

I've always believed that those who get comfortable and think they are immune to disruption are the most likely to be disrupted. Having a large customer base makes large incumbents feel like they will never leave. In actual reality, they will, but they just need a great solution... your solution. Problems don't make people change. Problems make people search for a solution. Until a good solution exists, they stick with the current one. It's like a do while loop of seemingly neverending pain. Do deal with pain while looking for a better solution, until you find a better one.

Work Towards Building Fanatics

The hipmunk mascot is barely a year old I believe, but boy do people love that little critter. Some have even created fan art! In a short period of time, Hipmunk has created valuable brand equity and fanatical customers. Some companies never get to achieve that. If you're able to resolve pain, finding fanatical customers will happen a lot faster.

Be Disruptive, But Respectful

It's fun to shake things up, call out your competitors, and make a lot of noise, but always be a gentleman or a classy lady. Have logic and let people see the rationale behind your argument. You should always have an answer that is more than "just because". Show those trapped in the Matrix why your solution is better and will free them from the pain that currently exists. Use a loud mouth and PR to get the world's eyes on you, but deliver sound logic. There is a thin line between being passionate and just being insane. Rationale is usually the difference.

Focus On Power Users

Not every solution should do this, but I noticed that it worked very very well for Hipmunk. A lot of the people that I know who are Hipmunk users, travel VERY often. Sometimes you just want to focus on the normal users, but you can get fanatical users and strong advocates by solving the pain for those that have it the most often. A person that travels multiple times a month with long flights is much more likely to want your solution when you first launch/unproven than a person that travels a few times a year, often for vacation+light work travel. Hipmunk, padmapper, hellofax, and others are just the start. The number of processes that are beyond painful run deep and present a world of opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs. What other industries are ready to be "hipmunked"? My vote: the domain purchasing industry. Someone should "hipmunk" Godaddy :).

You Should Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jasonlbaptiste, Friend me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jasonlbaptiste, Email Me: jbaptiste@onstartups.com, or even call: 201.305.0552

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