Walking into the classroom at Ann Arbor’s Skyline High School, I was a bit hesitant. I’ve been to a lot of “entrepreneurship” events, and I’m admittedly a cynic around the value of many panels.
This day, I had no reason to be hesitant.
The “Ask The Expert” panel put together was excellent, and had six straight-shooters who laid it out in regard to what you need to do to start a business. Greg Buck, President of Leonard Capital Markets, moderated the fast-paced discussion. Each panelist had two minutes to answer the question given to them by either the moderator or an attendee.
The luminaries came from all sectors, covering all the bases for the kinds of support a business would need. Paula Rhoades is a partner at Third Eye Innovation; Pavan Muzumdar is the managing director Pieris Capital; Gary Hessenaur is a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) at Hessenaur & Associates; Dug Song is the CoFounder and CEO at Duo Security and Michael Raymond is a Department manager at Dickinson Wright.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the session:
- Pick a market to test your product/service. You’re never going to get it right the first time. – Paula
- There are too many inventors. We need more business people. The founders probably shouldn’t be CEOs. – Gary
- Never raise money from investors when you need it. Make relationships with key people before you need to. – Dug
- Most successful companies charge first. Do not start free. – Paula
- Bootstrap your financing (avoid the use of outside investors) if you can – Dug
- The money you get early on is going to be much more patient than the money you will get later on in the process (meaning they will want higher, quicker returns). – Michael
- Ask yourself: does this idea you have meet an unmet need? What is the path to commercialization? – Pavan
- It’s never who you think it’s going to be who buys from you, and it’s not unusual that it takes a year to make your first sale. – Paula
Yes, some of their advice could be interpreted as sobering for some who want to start a business. But the positive thing is that they shared their expertise, which will help entrepreneurs, inventors and the other great idea people of this region and state succeed.
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a mini-series of posts coming out of the recent ACE (Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurship) that recently took place. The yearly conference brings together people with ideas together with those who fund them and celebrates startups across the state.