There Are No Magic Shortcuts: An Interview With Martin Zwilling
- By Rahul Varshneya
- January 31st, 2013
Martin Zwilling is the CEO & Founder of Startup Professionals, Inc; Callaman Ventures Board Member and Executive in Residence; Advisory Board Member for multiple startups; ATIF Angels Selection Committee; Entrepreneur in Residence at ASU and Thunderbird School of Global Management. He has published articles on Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and Huffington Post.
If you’re a startup entrepreneur, you would have surely come across Martin Zwilling. It’s hard not to come across a piece by Martin when reading popular entrepreneurship magazines. Martin also writes a daily blog for entrepreneurs and is the author of “Do You Know What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur?”
Here’s my interview with Martin that I feel is going to add tremendous value to you.
Rahul Varshneya: You have been blogging on entrepreneurship regularly. How much of that has helped you professionally?
Martin Zwilling: Blogging has been tremendously beneficial for me professionally. It has taken me from an unknown entrepreneur advocate to an internationally recognized “expert” on startups in less than 5 years, with no marketing and promotion, except my own use of social media. I have now published about 500 blog articles on various entrepreneur and business subjects, written two books, and have over 500,000 followers on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Rahul Varshneya: Do you think entrepreneurs should blog as well?
Martin Zwilling: Definitely. Every entrepreneur should use blogging to show their expertise, provide value, generate leads, and build their brand. As a startup, the entrepreneur is the brand, and your brand can be built even before your product or service is available. And all of this at a very low cost. It’s almost to the point that if you don’t have a blog, you don’t have any credibility as an entrepreneur.
Rahul Varshneya: Must entrepreneurs go out and seek mentors, advisors or coaches when they’re starting up?
Martin Zwilling: I do recommend that entrepreneurs seek out mentors and advisors, but this is not required. Some entrepreneurs have the strengths and experience to build a company and build a team alone, and some just prefer to work alone. Yet, I’m convinced that the best entrepreneurs are ones who know how to leverage their time and efforts through advisors and mentors, to get more done faster, with fewer mistakes.
Rahul Varshneya: Is having a co-founder seen as a key to a successful startup? What if one wants to startup individually?
Martin Zwilling: I always say that two heads are better than one, so I do recommend co-founders. Look for a co-founder who has complementary skills (marketing vs technical vs financial). Everyone benefits from having a sounding board for ideas, and the entrepreneurial role is just too big for one person. I don’t recommend teaming with a family member (spouses or siblings), since these relationships are too often broken by business issues and money. Investors consider a startup with one founder a much higher risk, so it’s harder to get funded, if that’s a need you have. This doesn’t mean you can’t start by yourself, but always stay open to adding a co-founder.
Rahul Varshneya: What is the key to scaling up one’s business?
Martin Zwilling: Scaling should not be attempted without proving your business model in a limited environment first. You can’t make pivots and corrections easily after you have scaled up. Also, it usually takes a big chunk of money and resources to scale, so trying this process too early, without the necessary resources, will likely spiral you into the ground, due to cashflow problems and poor customer service.
Rahul Varshneya: What makes a startup go from zero to a million dollars in revenues?
Martin Zwilling: A great solution to a real problem in a large and growing market, delivered with great marketing and great customer service will demonstrate “hockey stick” growth. There are no magic shortcuts that I know.
Rahul Varshneya: If an aspiring entrepreneur wants to startup, should they first work in a startup to get a feel?
Martin Zwilling: Yes, I believe that working in a startup as an employee is the best way to get a feel for business, and get familiar with the specific business domain. Every business domain has important elements you can’t learn from books or the Internet. You can learn as you go from your own startup efforts, but the costs and the risks are higher.
Rahul Varshneya: There are a number of entrepreneurship courses now offered across colleges. These were never there earlier, but we still saw an excellent breed of entrepreneurs. How do these add value to a person wanting to startup?
Martin Zwilling: It’s all about getting where you need to be faster and cheaper. Real live learning and mistakes are the best teachers, but also take longer and you may not even survive. I believe the entrepreneurship courses are worth the time, but an MBA is not required to be a better entrepreneur. You hear a lot about great entrepreneurs who dropped out of Harvard, but how many of us are smart enough to even get into Harvard?
Rahul Varshneya: How do you differentiate between a good startup idea and a bad one?
Martin Zwilling: I don’t spend much time on startup ideas – they are a “dime a dozen.” To me, it’s all about execution, and the quality of the people. I believe most good people who know how to make things happen can take a mediocre idea to success, while “idea only” people can’t make their best ideas into a business. In general, bad ideas are ones that violate the fundamentals of business – like a solution looking for a problem, no proven market, or a business model that has more cost than revenue. This may seem obvious, but I see proposals like these every day.
You can follow Martin Zwilling on Twitter @StartupPro.