Elevate Your Potential Magazine
Bill Gross, CEO and founder of Idealabs, has founded more than 150 startup companies — and he got curious about why some succeeded and others failed. So he gathered data from hundreds of companies, his own and other people’s, and ranked each company on five key factors.
He found one factor that stands out from the others — and surprised even him.
Bill Gross: What He’s Learned From Decades of Being a Serial Entrepreneur
At age 12, I started my first business: candy arbitrage. In my neighborhood, the candy store sold Snickers bars for 10 cents – but the drug store sold three for a quarter, or 8-1/3 cents for one. I bought lots of Snickers bars for 8-1/3 cents, sold them for 9 cents at the school bus stop, and my small business took off like crazy. It gave me my first great taste of interacting with customers, my first lesson in pricing.
Studying Engineering at Caltech and Learning How to Sell
At Caltech, I got into acoustical engineering. I designed high-end loudspeakers and started selling them. I opened a stereo store on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California. The experience of demonstrating to customers and trying to convince them to take out their wallets, part with their money and buy a pair of expensive loudspeakers – that was the greatest learning experience I ever had as an entrepreneur.
Learn how to sell, to pitch, to demonstrate – learn how to close people. I learned this when I was only 19 years old, somewhat accidentally, but it was a skill that has been valuable in every business I’ve started since. Do not think of the “demo” as an afterthought. Learn how to master it. It’s extremely important to whatever business you do. It’s one of the single most valuable entrepreneurial skills.
Since 1996, Idealab has started more than 100 companies across a wide spectrum of industries, including the Internet, Robotics, Cleantech, Communications, Productivity, and more, with a wide range of success and failure.
Of our approximately 100 companies, we’ve had more than 300 rounds of financing, an average of three rounds per company. We directly invested more than $870 million into these companies, and helped them raise a total of $2.8 billion in additional funding.
We’ve had 35 successful IPOs and acquisitions; we have 25 current operating companies; we’ve had 40 failures. An important lesson I learned in starting Idealab?
Structuring Your Company
Design a structure around your strengths, and balance that by hiring complementary skills. I am a genuinely unfocused individual. I like working on lots of different things – yet for a company to succeed, it needs focus. At Idealab we brought people in with skills I lack. We devised a structure for companies to succeed by staying laser-like focused on their mission, but allowed me to be involved in multiple companies.
Find a way to test your core proposition with your customer, then manage your resources to adapt after that. Don’t spend the money in advance. You have to test the real customer proposition. You have to make the example be the actual test. CarsDirect, by the way, would go public in 2007; a year ago, it was acquired by a private equity firm. A very profitable company turned into Internet Brands. | Read the full story…. businessinsider.com
- Rich DeMuro sits down with Bill Gross, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Pasadena-based Idealab. Bill shares his inspiration, talks about his latest venture UberAds and gives advice to fellow entrepreneurs.
Bill Gross founded Idealab in March 1996. Bill is a lifelong entrepreneur, starting his first solar business in high school. After graduating from California Institute of Technology, Mr. Gross started GNP Development, Inc., which made a natural language product for Lotus 1-2-3 called HAL. In 1985, Lotus Development …
Bill Gross has started and exited from seven, and has another two in his active portfolio. Gross is the founder and chairman of Idealab, one of America’s oldest and probably still most successful technology incubators. Idealab was established in 1996. Gross was 38 years old then. He had already started and …