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Lessons From the New Series Start-Ups: Silicon Valley




While the under-achievers of the Jersey Shore work on their tans, the over-achieving twenty-somethings of Silicon Valley are working on their next billion dollar idea.

Bravo’s new reality series Start-Ups: Silicon Valley tracks six young online entrepreneurs as they work, party and claw their way to the top of the heap. Siblings Ben and Hermione are looking to fund an app that calculates your life expectancy based on your daily choices (Burger for lunch, that’s 10 minutes off your life!). Sarah parlayed her “lifecast” blog into a cozy job as the social media manager for the Four Seasons hotel while Kim convinces ad buyers to fork over big bucks for Facebook advertising, and so on.

Above all, the series is highly entertaining, but after watching the first episode I also came away with several valuable lessons that I’d like to share.

Don’t Over Commit

Entrepreneurs and freelancers are always juggling a large number of projects but in the eyes of an investor or client, that’s not a good thing. Thinking that he’ll impress venture capitalist Dave McClure (founding partner of 500 Startups), Ben mentions that he has 43 companies. (He meant to say, he’s helped launch 43 companies, though I’m not sure that would have helped his case.) McClure’s spidey-sense started tingling immediately. His rationale – if you’re good at your job then you should have profits from those 43 companies to invest in the new idea. (Ben doesn’t have the money.) If you’re still juggling those companies, trying to make a profit, then you won’t be giving this new idea your full attention. McClure declared Ben a bad risk and sent him away without a dime.

Lesson learned: juggling jobs might be costing you more money than its making you. Take a hard look at everything on your plate and see if you can subtract at least two projects. Your head will be clearer and you’ll be more successful in the long run.

Sometimes Trade is Better Than Cash

Sarah is living a cushy life as a full-time resident of the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco. She gets free food, free spa treatments, even room service for her puppy in exchange for social media services. Not bad. And what are the chances she’s paying taxes on the value of those perks?

What do you need? Photography? Marketing help? A new website? What do you have to offer? Not everyone will agree to barter for services but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Have No Fear

The biggest lesson I learned from watching these young entrepreneurs work is that you have to be fearless. Ben made and lost millions while still a teenager. Now he’s pouring everything he has into a new project which could net him another million or it might cost him his last dime. It’s a crap shoot but he’s not letting fear of failure stop him.

And how much guts does it take to walk up to a stranger and ask him to invest a half million dollars in an idea that may never come to fruition? Or to walk away from a high-paying job in order to follow your heart?

No fear, my friends. That’s what it takes if you want to claim the big prize. It’s all in or nothing. Tough to do, I know. I have a family to take care of so I usually go for safe over sorry. But there were crossroads in my life when I chose the other path and looking back, I have to say, it worked in my favor. Time to listen to my own advice, I think.

Fearless! That’s the word for the week. Who’s with me?