How to Start a Company: Advice from Seattle Entrepreneur T.A. McCann

11/17/08Follow @gthuang

On Friday, there was a really good talk by the noted tech entrepreneur and investor T.A. McCann at a Northwest Entrepreneur Network breakfast in Bellevue, WA. The topic was how to get a startup off the ground: he called it “0-25 mph.” What with the economy these days, advice from someone like McCann seems more valuable than ever. For those who may have missed the talk, here are a few highlights and a link to McCann’s slides.

McCann is a former Microsoftie who has experience at Polaris Venture Partners and Vulcan Capital. He has been involved with a number of tech startups, most recently Evri and Gist, the latter of which he currently leads as founder and CEO. I thought McCann’s comments in his blog about the talk were particularly telling about his approach to entrepreneurship. “I always learn something when I do these kinds of events, both about what I have done right/wrong in the past and how I can be better in the future,” he writes.

At the bottom of his talk slides—which covered everything from strategy and operations to fundraising and hiring—McCann listed “lessons learned.” A few points stood out to me:

—Know your own space, pick customers you want to embrace, and make sure they pay.

—Strategy should not be complicated.

—A team’s value is 5 parts passion, 2 parts brains, and 1 part experience.

—Outsource routine tasks, hire for thought leadership.

—Deliver status updates every two weeks to your investors/board/advisors.

McCann closed with the following five-point summary for entrepreneurs. Points #2 and #5 are really key, I think:

—If it were easy, everyone would do it.

—Love your customers more than your idea.

—Use the right tools, timing, and discipline.

—Know where to spend and save.

—If you were rich, would you still be doing it?

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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  • http://www.bobmaconbusiness.com Bob MacDonald

    Mr. McCann’s comments are very interesting and helpful. I especially like is suggestion that strategy need not be complicated. I have learned that one basic difference between an bureaucrat and an entrepreneur is that the bureaucrat takes simple things and makes them complicated, while the entrepreneur takes complicated things and makes them simple. The entrepreneur simply identifies simple things to do and simply does them. http://www.bobmaconbusiness.com