My 3 Biggest Early Learnings From Entrepreneurship

Pivotal learnings from the last decade 3/5 🙏

In 2014 I eventually did follow my intuition into entrepreneurship. I learned three very important lessons from my early years in entrepreneurship:

  1. Create something that people want – While we were eventually successful at my first startup, we spent far too much time and money trying to market products before customers actually liked them much.
  2. Experimentation is the key to business growth – Both Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg attribute their success with their respective businesses to experimentation. Our eventual success at our first startup came when we got good at experimentation.
  3. Experimentation is also the key to personal growth – Experimentation is about learning by doing, gaining feedback, and doing better. In life, we more commonly refer to this as practice – that is we learn things like sport and music by practicing them. Once I mastered growth in business, I quickly learned that I could apply the same principles to great effect in my personal life!

Video transcript 🗣

The following is the full transcript of this video. Please note that to connect as much as possible with you and my broader audience, my videos are filmed unscripted and in one take. Enjoy!

This is the third video in my series covering my pivotal learnings from the last decade. In the first two videos, we covered two really key learnings of mine. The first was learning to trust my intuition around important life decisions. And the second was learning to champion my values – things like my physical health, fitness, financial freedom, relationships, and love – and not getting caught up in the dogmas, in the games, in the technologies of our society to really champion the things that are truly most important to me. 

In this third video, we’re going to pick up on my journey where we left off, which was me deciding to quit investment banking. And we’re going to go through some of the learnings I had as I moved into the world of entrepreneurship.

Where we left off, I’d decided to quit investment banking because it wasn’t a good fit for me and my values. I started talking initially with a like-minded colleague and friend, because I didn’t have an idea for a business at that stage – like while I was on campus at London Business School where I also didn’t have an entrepreneurial idea of my own to pursue.

This time though, I was determined not to let the lack of an idea stop me pursuing my entrepreneurial dream and I encourage others to do the same. So I didn’t have an idea, but I found a like-minded friend who was also tired of investment banking and wanted to move on to entrepreneurship. And, we started having ideation sessions over smoothies in the afternoon. We continued that on an adventure we went on with friends to explore the recently discovered world’s largest cave in Vietnam. That was pretty cool and by the end of that adventure, we’d hatched an idea to start a babywear business.

Neither of us were parents, but my business partner had some connections in Turkey in the textile industry and it was the most promising business idea we had. So we took the plunge and did the hard work of getting a new business up and running for a couple of years in particular. 

The key learning from that early phase of entrepreneurship for me was that you need to make sure your market likes your product or service before you invest too much time and effort in marketing it.

Obviously you’ve got to invest some time in marketing early on so you can get people to try and test your early products or services, but don’t overdo it in terms of spending money and doing complex advertising campaigns. You’ve really got to develop something people desire and grow your marketing in line with that desire. Eventually, we did create really great babywear that people really liked. And with good marketing, the business started growing strongly. 

Eventually, our business growth gave us the opportunity to go over to Silicon Valley to join one of their prestigious startup accelerators, 500 startups. I was fortunate to represent the business over there and it was a pivotal moment in my journey because the 500 team really taught me how the fundamental tenet of Silicon Valley is experimentation. It’s really at the core of everything they do – the scientific method of experimentation.

For example, Jeff Bezos at Amazon says that their success is a function of the number of experiments that they do each year, each month, each week, each day even. And it’s very much the same at Facebook as well, where Mark Zuckerberg said that the best thing he ever did was create a growth team to run experiments at Facebook.

What a lot of people don’t know is that everybody’s Facebook is different. They’re running hundreds of thousands of tests in parallel changing different aspects of the platform to learn and to grow through the process of experimentation.

The big aha moment for me, was that in my own personal life I wasn’t doing any deliberate experimentation to grow myself and my life. I wasn’t being rigorous about the way I was experimenting, about the way I’m trying to improve the way I grow my values. So in my personal life, I started looking at ways to experiment, more, better. 

For example, I asked myself what experiments I could try around positivity. What could I do each day to make myself more positive and to have a more positive impact on other people. What could I try around fitness around health and meditation, all of these sorts of things. 

So over the next couple of years, I really started investing in this process of experimentation and it grew and evolved to the point where I realised that for our personal lives experimentation is inherent in the age old concept of practice. That to learn sport, or music, one must repeatedly try new things and learn from each attempt.

Similarly, we want to practice kindness, we want to practice fitness, health, sleep, all of these things, all of these values in our life to create more value in each of these areas. Which you can similarly look at as developing skills for creating value in each of those areas, skills for creating value in your relationships, in your work, in all of these different areas that make up life.

So I then started evolving methodologies for practice after realising just how important practice was as a tool for life growth. Prior to this I’d really championed knowledge as the solution to all my problems. If I wanted to get fitter, I needed to learn more about exercise, I needed to read more about exercise, I needed to consume more information, more podcasts about exercise. And while knowledge is really valuable, the point I was missing was how much of it was I actually putting into practice. As Lao-Tzu the ancient Chinese philosopher said: 

‘Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key.’ 

So as I got better at daily practice, at practicing my values, these things that were most important to me in life, my growth really took off and I experimented along the way with lots of different methods for daily practice to get the tools, the methodologies just right.

Eventually, this journey, this obsession with learning about values… the science of values… practice… the science of practice… how the mind works… why practice is the fundamental way that we can use more of our mind… how all of this works together… All this eventually led me to leave my successful and much loved startup and team to pursue the opportunity to help others with their practice of the important things in their life! 

So those were the key learnings from my early years as an entrepreneur. I’m going to come back and do a penultimate video in this series on my journey into solo entrepreneurship, and the rapid expansion and acceleration of my own personal practice, before wrapping it up with a final video!

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