The 30-Second Entrepreneur

Two out of 100 lessons learned from a quarter-century of launching businesses.

By + More

TH_OV_GLHoffman copy.jpg
GL Hoffman
More people than ever want to start their own company. That's great. About six months ago, I wrote down about 100 things I learned over about 25 years of starting companies. Here are two of them.

23. To sell many, sell one.

To build your company, you have to sell multiples. You can't just sell one. Anyone can sell one. Your family will buy, and maybe even a college buddy will give you money for your new widget. The trick is to sell the second one, and get paid for it. But before you can sell many, you have to sell that one single customer. When you talk to venture capitalists, they are obnoxiously insistent on waiting until someone buys. Everything else is "classroom." 84. Worry less about the big competitors and more about the guy in the garage.

The typical new entrepreneur is overly concerned about the "Big Company." Their idea is so good that the big company may steal it, they think. Once, a friend of mine had developed a molded mini-trashcan that would attach cleverly to the back seat of a Lexus. His question: How could he protect his idea from Toyota, the parent company of Lexus? Companies, especially large ones, are not sitting around hoping to get their next product or enhancement from some underfunded entrepreneur. In fact, most of the time, the large company will completely discount and disregard your offering. When Scott Drill and I started Varitronics, the company that owned the existing market for the product even ridiculed us and our new product. This is more common than you would think. So don't worry about the big guys; worry more about the guy just like you, with a slightly bigger garage. G.L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig. His blog can be found at or at