There is no shortage of headlines that swirl around the world’s biggest money makers. But for aspiring entrepreneurs, it’s going behind these headlines that’s most helpful. What makes the globe’s most successful entrepreneurs really tick, and how did they catapult their ideas into billion dollar businesses?
Let’s look at three of the biggest names – all of whom were startup owners themselves once.
- Tej Kohli – International technology and real estate billionaire businessman
- Brian Chesky – Co-founder of Airbnb
- Reid Hoffman – Entrepreneur and co-founder of LinkedIn
So what advice do they have for other entrepreneurs hoping to follow suit? From customer service and hiring strategies, to problem solving solutions and risk mitigation – these three billionaire businessmen share words of wisdom to help the next generation of startup owners find success.
Tej Kohli – International businessman and chairman of Kohli Ventures
Tej Kohli is an international technology and real estate entrepreneur, MENSA member, and billionaire who now keenly invests in technology startups and philanthropic causes. His particular emphasis is on the development of AI and robotics that help solve global challenges.
As an example, Kohli recently invested USD 2m to champion biotech solutions for eliminating corneal blindness worldwide by 2030.
His portfolio of diverse interests and his wisdom and insight continues to inspire entrepreneurs across the globe.
Kohli’s advice to startup owners
Kohli urges startups to focus on creating happy customers and nurturing them for the purpose of longevity, repeat business, and recommendations.
He says: “While strategy, market positioning and coming up with a long-term plan are all important, focus on making individual sales and creating happy customers. None of that strategic planning is any good if you can’t keep the lights on because you’re not making enough sales.”
Kohli also stresses the importance of attracting and nurturing young talent – that is, the tech savvy generation.
He believes that investing in, and training young talent will maximise the effectiveness of a workforce, However, he warns that businesses must adapt to facilitate the collaborative nature of creativity favoured by the next generation.
The tech guru believes that businesses must “innovate or die”, and suggests that one surefire way to do this is to “consider changing older hierarchical models designed to control and restrict the flow of information, so younger employees can play more of a leading role in designing new models that facilitate collaboration.”
With 78% of millennials claiming to be influenced by a company’s level of innovation when deciding if they want to work there, it’s clear that businesses must continue to adapt to attract young talent and remain competitive.
Brian Chesky – Co-founder of Airbnb
Airbnb was founded in 2008 after 27 year-old Chesky and co-founder Joe Gebbia bought three air beds to rent out in their living room during a busy event weekend to help them pay their rent. They charged USD 80 per person per night and filled all three beds.
Having successfully waved goodbye to their first guests, the duo enlisted Gebbia’s former flatmate, Nathan Blecharczyk – a computer science graduate and programmer – to develop the website.
A well-timed launch and some clever PR led to multiple investments in the peer-to-peer home and room rental business that now operates in over 180 countries, across more than 80,000 cities and boasts more than 300 million registered users.
Chesky’s advice to startup owners
One of the most important lessons we can learn from Chesky is that a product or service must solve a clear problem if it’s going to be successful.
Airbnb solved the problem of little to no accommodation options during busy periods in specific areas. And as an added bonus, it offered extra income for homeowners.
The solution offered by Airbnb also ties in with the idea of collaborative consumption and a renewed environmental focus on sharing, swapping and renting possessions.
Chesky says: “Startups and entrepreneurs should always make sure that they have a solution for a specific problem. It’s a bad idea to think up a product or service and then go about trying to find a problem to which this solution can be applied.”
If you can imagine even a handful of people’s lives being made easier by your idea or business model, then you’re onto something.
Reid Hoffman – Entrepreneur and co-founder of LinkedIn
Reid Hoffman co-founded LinkedIn in 2002 and made his fortune when the company sold to Microsoft for USD 26.2bn in 2016.
Hoffman is also one of Silicon Valley’s most prolific and successful startup investors.
Hoffman’s advice to startup owners
Hoffman believes that it is essential for entrepreneurs to understand the risks that their ideas and businesses might face, and to be honest about them to key stakeholders.
When asked what makes a startup business investable, Hoffman says this: “Don’t just boast of credentials and competitive edge; clearly articulate the risks and challenges and how [you] will overcome them.”
Being honest about any potential risks will help you to better manage them if challenges arise. Hoffman advises startup owners to prepare for economic downturns in the following ways:
- Put a lot of capital in the bank for flexibility
- Develop as much monitoring as possible to get visibility into your business
- Don’t over-hire right now or weigh yourself down with staff
Making sure that you can get through downturns and survive micro and macro environmental volatility is a maturing process that all startups face. Those who can assess, mitigate and manage risks will survive, and they will have the greatest chance of prosperity.