10 Sobering Lessons Learned After Teaching 88 Struggling Entrepreneurs For 6 Months

by / ⠀Personal Branding Startup Advice / September 11, 2012

If you are an entrepreneur who loves to create value from thin air… this article is for you.

Last year on September 31st, 2011 I started a 6 month journey of mentoring with 88 entrepreneurs. We’ve been privately creating products out of thin air, and now it’s time to share the results.

We called ourselves The Foundation. I promised this group that they would create a software company with 10 paying customers in just 6 months, even if they had no idea what to build or how to code.

Yes, it was a crazy idea.

None of them had ever built a software company before. And only a few had built successful businesses. Most were just getting started into entrepreneurship.

We made a few mistakes along the way, and created 5 to 10 new software companies from the process.

Here’s are the 10 lessons I learned after mentoring this ragtag group.

  • You can start a business without an idea. Just go into a market like “Veterinarians” for example and Find The Pain. In that pain, you will come up with a product idea.
  • Entrepreneurs sabotage themselves by focusing on the least important parts of a business in the beginning. The only thing that matters in the beginning is selling your idea and getting money. This means you don’t need a logo, a website, or even a product. I caught a few members making logos before they ever had a paying user. They were scolded. We have members create “sales info packet PDFs” of what the product will do, and get customers to purchase based on that alone.
  • Entrepreneurs put off what they are most afraid of – failing. For most, that’s selling their idea. They will stick their head in the sand and build a product for 6 months, come up for air, only to realize no one wants it. I took that fear of failure and put it at the beginning before any products were made. We had some members fail through 5 ideas before they found their first profitable software product.
  • Entrepreneurs are lonely, but they thrive in a community with others. With a private chat room always on and 15 to 20 members sharing their setbacks, failures, and successes, a thriving connection was created. Live chat was wonderful for creating connections.
  • Entrepreneurs crush through results with accountability. When they saw themselves getting passed up by their peers, they took massive action. It’s easy to be lazy when it’s just you on the couch with your laptop. But when you are connected into a community who’s making progress, you don’t slack off for fear of being left behind.
  • Entrepreneurs who made excuses about not getting results typically suffered from a lack of desire. They were blinded by excuses, but in reality, just didn’t want it bad enough. Those that wanted it bad enough were (surprisingly) endlessly resourceful in building their first software business. Any obstacle was overcome. Their burning desire made it possible.
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    1. Building software is totally possible even if you’re technically clueless… if you are taught how to outsource to developers. We had a 55 year old who barely uses Facebook create his first software company.
    2. Money is abundant to you… if you have a painful idea. When members joined, they thought money would be an obstacle. But they found it to be readily available once they developed salesmanship. The most important skill for an entrepreneur is salesmanship. I’m not talking about the image of being a sleazy car salesman, I’m talking about people who can actually ask for money. The question “Would you pay for this?” and “Which credit card would you like to use?” are surprisingly difficult questions for Entrepreneurs to ask. We pushed them through that barrier. Read SPIN Selling if you need help here.
  • Your background, age, race, and geographic location have nothing to do with being successful. We had dog walkers, chemical engineers, shy developers, and college students. All of them built software companies. The most successful student is in New Zealand working from his garage.
  • Entrepreneurs get stuck trying to find something they are passionate about. Picking a business you are passionate about is not as important as being passionate about the process of building a business. I’m not passionate about any particular business industry, but I am passionate about finding problems and solving them. Make your passion solving problems and adding value – then you can go almost anywhere and do anything. And most importantly, you can get started. Once you get started, you start to see dozens of new opportunities open up that never existed when you stood still.
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In the end, this was one of the most grueling 6 months of my life. I had to take a few months off to rest from the intensity of always being on with them. I spent 5 days a week and hours a day with this group training them over the internet with live chat and conference calls.It was about 3 months in that I started to see their mindsets shift, and progress started to happen a lot faster. Once their mindset was reprogrammed, they became unstoppable.I firmly believe that anyone who wants it bad enough can do this. They can have a profitable meaningful business starting from scratch.

This is a message of hope for any aspiring entrepreneur. You. Can. Do. This.

Dane Maxwell is the creator of The Foundation – where we create web based products from thin air. We use a no nonsense approach to finding painful problems and solving them with software. When you visit The Foundation you can request a case study to learn how a 22 year old from new zealand built a profitable software company in 6 months without any idea on what to build, limited funds, and zero development skills.

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.