Bill Warner on Building Your Startup From Your Heart, Not Your Head—A Preview of His Keynote at Xconomy’s 5X5 Forum

11/30/10Follow @bbuderi

Bill Warner is one of those good guy entrepreneurs. Yeah, he has a track record of business success, founding Avid and Wildfire, among other companies, and selling them for lots of money. But more than that, he gives back to the entrepreneurial community—both as an angel investor and, more importantly, as a mentor to those who want to build their own companies.

That’s why we asked Warner to give the opening keynote next Wednesday, December 8, at our half-day conference in downtown Boston—5X5: Five Cities, Five Big Tech Ideas. This afternoon forum features a host of startups from the five cities in Xconomy’s growing network (Boston, Detroit, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle). You can see more about the event, including the agenda and how to get tickets, by clicking the link above. But in the meantime, I caught up with Warner to learn more about his talk. Its title is inspiring: How to Build Your Startup From the Heart. And, to hopefully whet your appetite for hearing more in person next week, here’s a taste of the philosophy behind it.

First of all, Warner says, when he prods entrepreneurs to “build your startup from the heart,” it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t agree with the message. But saying you’re going to build a company from the heart and doing it is not that easy, he points out. “Because in reality, you get a lot of pressure from yourself, and outside yourself, to build your startup from your head.”

For example, Warner says, it might seem logical for an entrepreneur to go after the money—both in the sense of chasing investors, and in the sense of focusing on building an early revenue stream. However, he says, “While that can make logical sense, it can be a terrible idea for building your startup from the heart. So often I find that entrepreneurs get steered away from what really matters to them because of a focus on who has the money.”

Quick case study of how to do it right: Google’s refusal from its earliest days to run banner ads. Founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page left money on the table, Warner says, but they felt that running the ads would slow down searches and clutter things up. People were coming to Google to find information, so the founders didn’t want to do anything that impinged on that, he says—and trusted that if they were successful they could figure out a way to make money without banner ads.

To get to this kind of entrepreneurial zen and successfully build your company from your heart, Warner says, you should follow three rules, or tenets: Intention, Invention, and Beliefs.

“What people focus on mostly is invention: This is what we do. This is our invention,” he says. “And what I encourage people to do is to talk about things that actually are much further behind the way they are doing the invention. Not who is buying your product, but who are your people who you love and you’re doing it for.”

This also brings us to the other two aspects of his mantra: intention and beliefs. From our talk, the two seem very closely intertwined. For instance, building on the Google example, Warner says Brin and Page intended to help people find information on the Internet, and they believed that they shouldn’t do anything that would get in the way of searchers or their ability to find things.

“There was this belief that that was the right way to go. And you could argue that that made no sense, [they should have said] ‘We got to get money,’” Warner says. But Brin and Page held firm. They said, “If we just keep doing right by our people, we’ll figure out the rest of this—and they did,” Warner says.

Warner says that in his own career—especially in the case of Wildfire—he strayed from his beliefs, to his detriment (“I made a fatal mistake, and just in case, I made redundant fatal mistakes,” is how he put it.).

“It’s beliefs that controls the system,” he says. “So your beliefs control how you use your intentional ability and your invention ability. So when I work with entrepreneurs, a lot of it is around, number one, getting them to state their beliefs.”

Warner plans to share more of his philosophy—and answer your questions about it—at 5X5 next Wednesday (December 8). “What gets me excited,” he says, “is that with this language and this way of looking at things, I can cut through so much stuff.”

Register here. We hope to see you at the event.

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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