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kevin o'connor

This is a guest post from Kevin O'Connor, founder of DoubleClick, and currently CEO and founder of FindTheBest.

As an entrepreneur, turned VC, turned entrepreneur, I’m constantly asked how good ideas come about, how to start a business and take it to its full potential and what to focus on and what to ignore when running a company.  After founding or co-founding several companies, including the Intercomputer Communications Corporation, DoubleClick and now, FindTheBest—a data-driven comparison engine—I’ve come up with 10 key tips for young entrepreneurs.

1. Look for a big problem

Find a big problem that addresses a large audience or market and then come up with the best solution. Don’t get caught up in temporary fads that will come and go; think long term. Figure out what problems you and your peers have come a crossed and find the best solution.

2. Distinguish between fads and trends

Oftentimes people mistake fads for trends. While a trend is a behavior that grows into a permanent change, a fad is something that grows quickly in popularity but eventually fades away. (Think the pet rock vs. social media.) Make sure that whatever new idea you come up with sets or follows a growing trend.

3. Look for disjoints

New technology trends cause disjoints, which in turn open up space for new inventions. Think about how the smartphone has opened up space for the App market or how social media companies like Facebook have opened up a space for online social gaming or broad-scale photo sharing.

4. Innovate constantly

Great entrepreneurs are seldom satisfied inventing just one successful product—they’re constantly innovating and looking for ways to solve the big problems around them.  Success is oftentimes a numbers game; you need to come up with a lot of bad ideas before you come up with the great idea, so be persistent and don’t give up.

5. Test and scale

At FindTheBest, we’re constantly testing new ideas and products. We never launch anything unless it has been through several rounds of testing. But even after throughout testing, there’s the question of scale. If a new idea isn’t scalable, you’re probably better off scrapping it and looking for something that is scalable.

6. Stand firmly behind your convictions

As an entrepreneur, you need to believe in your ideas with such conviction because no matter what your idea or vision, there will be skeptics.  I remember when I first heard about a company that wanted to bring the idea of a flea market to the Web; I thought it was the worst idea.  A few years later, eBay—a multi-billion dollar company—was born.

7. Know when to pivot

As an entrepreneur, you need to be willing to fail—so long as you fail quickly. The sooner you come to that conclusion, the sooner you can pivot or even completely scrap your idea and start on a new idea—drawing from all that you’ve learned from previous failures.

8. Focus on your customers, not your competitors

Many companies focus too much on the competition rather than on their customers.  When you’re focusing on what you’re competitor is doing you: 1) Are already one step behind and 2) Take your focus off what really matters.

9. Always think about how you can destroy your own business

At DoubleClick, we were always thinking about how we could destroy our own business.  If you aren’t aware of what your weaknesses are and how your competition could take advantage of your weaknesses, your competitors will and they will destroy you. The most important thing is to serve the customers better than all the competition does.  Many companies make the mistake of focusing on the competition instead of on their customers.

10. Move

Successful entrepreneurs are quick movers because they realize that just having a multi-billion dollar idea doesn’t mean anything unless they get it out there before someone else does.

Kevin O’Connor, co-founder of DoubleClick, is the founder and CEO of FindTheBest, a data-driven comparison engine. He is also the author of the book, The Map of Innovation: Creating Something Out of Nothing.

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