Ping Identity, MobileDay CEOs Teach Students About Building Companies

1/27/14Follow @MichaelXBD

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it’s a great product, it’s not a great product,” Durand said.

“If you’re getting your product in front of customers, and you think it’s brilliant, but they don’t think it is, you’re kidding yourself,” Diamond said.

Diamond qualified that idea a bit, saying sometimes startups might have the right product but struggle to find the right customers or develop the right strategies for selling to them. Knowing and developing a customer base is a complicated challenge, he said.

—Be bold and stay confident despite failures… Ideas for great products and business savvy do matter in building a company, but so do self-belief and the ability to stick out the tough times, Durand said.

“Willpower is so incredibly important to success,” Durand said. “I’ve seen extremely brilliant people who are unwilling to take a risk. They’ll analyze a problem to death, and then decide to do nothing. And I’ve seen people who know nothing will their way to success after a period of time and a lot of failures.”

—…but be humble and willing to learn. For all the talk about boldness and confidence, there also was an emphasis on humility. Diamond expanded on that with a quip.

“I’m really good at what I do, and I’m wrong a lot,” Diamond said. He joked he was wrong about 49 percent of the time, but he’s also learned to never stop asking for advice even though he’s had a long career and now is in his 60s.

“Asking for help is something you should do constantly,” Diamond said.

It’s especially important to keep failures in perspective.

“You don’t get anywhere without making a lot of mistakes,” Durand said. “Every failure is a learning moment.”

—Serendipity matters. Sometimes entrepreneurs will need to catch a break to hit it big.

“An enormous amount of what we do, and an enormous amount of what you will do, is going to be hard work and [requires] your passion, but never forget there’s an incredible amount of luck, and an incredible amount of serendipity to it,” Diamond said. “If you have success, sort of by definition, you’ve been in the right place at the right time.”

—Understand the mentor relationship. Entrepreneurs in Colorado talk a lot about the importance of mentorship, but it can be intimidating for young or inexperienced entrepreneurs to ask a successful entrepreneur for help. One reason is they don’t always know what they can offer in exchange for advice.

Durand and Diamond said that doesn’t matter and encouraged the crowd to seek out relationships anyway. They also talked about what mentors get out of the relationship.

“We are not wonderful people who are doing this out of the goodness of our hearts,” Diamond said. “We get so much out of this. We learn, we get intellectual stimulation, we stay fresh. The idea that it’s a one-sided thing is never true of a mentor-mentee relationship.”

Durand said the most rewarding part of the relationship is seeing someone succeed because it tells a mentor his or her advice and help has had an impact.

Potential mentors do sometimes have to turn people away, but that’s not a rejection of the person asking for help. It could even benefit the person seeking help.

Diamond said that when someone approaches him that he can’t help, it’s usually because he doesn’t feel he has the expertise.

“There are people I’ve met with who I think are brilliant and wonderful, but I don’t think I’m the right person to help them,” he said. In that case, he’ll try to connect that person with someone in his network who can.

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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