Guy Kawasaki Entrepreneurship 2.0 Tips for Success

Jul 08, 2010

Guy Kawasaki with audience after his fireside chat on "Entrepreneurship 2.0

Like many, I’ve been a long-standing fan of Guy Kawasaki since his Evangelist post at Apple marketing the original Macintosh. Since then, he’s been just as well known as a Silicon Valley venture capitalist with his company Garage Technology Ventures, an early stage venture capital fund that helps “start up startups”. Even more recently, Guy has been successfully marketing his RSS news aggregator site Alltop by very effectively taking advantage of social media, particularly through his Twitter accounts @GuyKawasaki and @alltop. Guy is also a successful author, having written several books on business and entrepreneurship and posting information regularly on his blog.

I’ve not had the opportunity to see Guy speak in person until last night where he was invited to speak at UCSC Extension in Silicon Valley on the topic of “Entrepreneurship 2.0”. The event was sponsored by the school’s Green Entrepreneurship program and was promoted as a “fireside chat” with Alison van Diggelen who is a Silicon Valley journalist and commentator, currently focused on green business issues.

Kicking off His Journey
Alison started off the chat by asking Guy to speak about his journey beginning with his tenure as a Mac Evangelist. He recounted the experience of seeing the first prototype Macintosh computer as one of those seminal moments in his life, only grouped with meeting his wife and playing hockey (and joked that he wouldn’t share his ranking of the 3!). He was most impressed by MacPaint and a demo that had bouncy Apple logos and Pepsi caps – which was apparently used to recruit John Scully from Pepsi.

The key, he shared, is that great evangelism starts with a great product, one can’t evangelize ‘crap’. It was easy to evangelize the Mac to developers, because they wanted to be part of the “cool” that Apple had set in motion. “Trying to evangelize MS-DOS would’ve been a different story…”

When asked if he’s ever experienced the magic again, he simply stated “Evangelizing the iPad – how hard would that be?” He went on to praise Apple again later in the discussion on the iPhone success.

Guy, who is known to be humble and approachable, had no hesitation in stating that he doesn’t consider himself a visionary, but has always been willing to just “grind it out“.

Being in Silicon Valley
As a venture capitalist, Guy says he’s been asked many times how to create what we have in Silicon Valley elsewhere [in the country and around the world]. He imparted that it started with and has always been about the engineering talent. Sources like Stanford Engineering really fueled the early innovation and it was all an upward spiral from there. (After which came the venture capitalists, law firms, marketing agencies and the rest of the scum suckers!) He says that he tells people to focus on engineering schools.

What’s great about Silicon Valley, he remarked, is that it is very forgiving of failure. He joked that this is probably a good thing, considering his Apple Evangelism couldn’t have been that great given Microsoft’s still dominant PC market share!

I share the opinion that failure [in business or projects] more likely equates to valuable experience gained than simply working for a “successful” company.  (Guy touches on this point again later.)

Talking about Apple led him back to the iPhone. Guy says that he just doesn’t get why Nokia couldn’t build a better device. Microsoft’s failure with the Kin (killed off months after release) doesn’t make sense, given they have the cash and is one of those companies that can “grind it out”. He attributes 110% to iPhone’s success to Steve Jobs. Jobs, he says, is remarkable and cannot be imitated – his chutzpah, taste and good fortune all result in success. Further, it illustrates that the magic is in a company’s DNA – Apple has always been about building “cool stuff”.

On Reinventing Oneself
Simply put, Guys states that it is about staying relevant. Right now that means understanding and utilizing social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Goalla, etc. “Social media is not just a fad; people said that about the young internet because they never envisioned the ability to sell shoes online”.

Right now, Guy says he uses Twitter almost exclusively to market (with a number of professional tools and people). He says despite what people say, it’s all about your number of followers. What’s important to him is engaging with followers – responding to as many direct messages and @ replies as he can. He claims that this is part of the “enchantment” factor. Guy shared the anecdotal Starfish Story by Loren Eisley to illustrate why this matters – if you can touch just one person at a time, it creates the bond that builds a trusted network.

The topic of tapping into the trusted network to expand your brand evangelism was discussed last week by Anne Driscoll, VP of Business Operations at Ning.com, at a Social Media Meetup that I attended. You can read my quick blog of that event.

When pressed on how an entrepreneur or a start-up would get into using Twitter as a marketing tool, part of his response really resonated for me. His suggestions:

  • Find interesting stories in your particular field or business to tweet about [he gave a few examples of how to do this technically, including use of his own aggregator site, Alltop]
  • Do what you can to build up a following by “regular” means of promoting your Twitter feed
  • Guy didn’t explicitly state this, but I would add that some of what you promote should be original content or editorial opinion
  • Repeat

As you gain more followers and hopefully garnish the technical form of Twitter flattery – the retweet, you will begin to position yourself as a Subject Matter Expert (commonly referred to as a SME in the training world). Guy said this is the key: once you’ve reached the level where you’ve earned your audience, you’ve gain the privilege of promoting your own product [or service] to them.

Guy expanded on a few more Twitter tips that I won’t list, but you can read his blog where he outlines his process: http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2009/07/how-i-tweet-just-the-faqs.html#axzz0t5tiifYH.

Entrepreneurial Tips

  • Tips 1-5: Be Lucky! At least believe in karma; “This isn’t very actionable, good thing we didn’t charge for this!”
  • Don’t open PowerPoint or Excel; skip the business plan; “all spreadsheets look the same, anyways”
  • Build and show a prototype

To the last point, specifically, Guy spent some time extolling the virtues of open source technologies and services from content management systems to blog platforms to social media tools. Admittedly, Guy acknowledged that his tips are more aimed at web products or services, but a marketeer or start-up should be able to take some of these concepts to formulate workable marketing and operational initiatives. The important angle is that good use of these tools requires little to no cost.

From his perspective, a VC firm or Angel investor would rather see a demonstrable product, that you have customers and are at a position where you need to scale. This situation is more likely to generate interest over someone as high as an ex-VP or a very early engineer from a company like Google or YouTube that just has “an idea” and a cookie-cutter business plan with financial projections.

Guy continued that VCs may say they want to see a “proven team”, but he still maintains that most success stories happen by hungry, unproven young people.

If the idea of “just get to work” interests you, I recommend checking out the 37Signals blog and books such as Rework, as well as the Startup Lessons Learned blog by Eric Ries.

Wrap-Up
During the brief open Q&A session, I noted two particular points that Guy shared:

  • He says if you have an idea, always seek input from a woman, because men “inherently want to kill things – people, animals, plants and ideas”! A woman will more likely supply critical feedback that bolsters the positive aspects of your idea.
  • Entrepreneurship is a parallel process, not serial. Don’t expect to formulate an idea, get funding, build, get customers, get paid. It’s a repeat process and many tasks run along side each other. You have to be willing to “grind it out”.

Guy is also working on his next book about “Enchantment” and is looking for great examples of how people, products, services, organizations, ideas or causes sweep people off their feet. You can submit your ideas on his blog at: http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2010/06/examples-needed-personal-stories-of-enchantment.html#axzz0t6CMuU8L