How Entrepreneurs Can Build a Sustainable Business

6 Concrete Suggestions for Entrepreneurs from SXSW

There is one conference in the world that combines film, music and interactive technology. That conference is called: South By Southwest: SXSW. Or Southby for short. Southby is the spot where trends, ideas, developments and gadgets are being shared. In March this year I visited this conference in Austin (USA) together with my colleagues Arne Gillert and Arjan de Hoog.

There was lots and lots of inspiration. I attended sessions with growth hacker Tammy Camp, with author Tim Ferriss, with Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore, with Twitter founder Biz Stone and many more.

In this blogpost I share my 6 most interesting outcomes from SXSW for entrepreneurs through cartoons and mini-blogs. What can you as an entrepreneur learn from this flow of inspiration and innovation, coming from Texas?

1. Have Fun

At SXSW everybody seems to have fun. There’s time for meet-ups, for beers, for connections. Not only during the sessions, but even more on the streets outside the conference buildings.

Having fun was a crucial ingredient for the birth of innovative platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter and founder of Super — a very cool and funny app — said it very powerful during one of the sessions: When you create something fun, the more people will use your product. The more people use your product, the more impact you’ll have.

2. Add Value

Every business starts with a proper value proposition. If you want to grow, you’ll have to get the basics right. That means that you’ll have to add value. It’s a core lesson, that I’ve learned in a session with Sean Ellis, co-founder of Qualaroo and What’s the problem that you’re solving? What is it that you bring to the world? And why is it important for you? To add value is not a trick. It’s about making real sense. To deliver something that enriches people’s lives.

3. Get Fans

Entrepreneurs are usually being inclined to focus on their product. Tim Ferriss, author of the 4-Hour Workweek, said that it’s far more important to focus on your customers.

To be successful you have to know your clients and meet their needs. You have to understand their online and offline behavior. If you don’t know what they do, you can’t make the right choices. And what they do, is usually not what they say they do, said Genevieve Bell, Vice President and Fellow at Intel. You have to go out, have a look with your own eyes and investigate to inquire their needs. Then you’ll get fans.

4. Find the Gold

More than once, you can find gold at your blind spots. But it’s difficult. There’s that one unique selling point, that personal talent, or that one approach that’s very helpful for clients. How can you become a gold digger?

Finding the gold, starts with looking. How do you look? And where do you focus on? Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter and founder of Super, stated in an interview that you can learn from everything. Even in bad times, there’s got to be at least something that you’ve done at the right way. Zoom in, unpack it, make it your thing! Discover that little piece of gold and make it bigger.

5. Experiment a Lot!

Once you’ve found your gold, how do you define your strategy to make it bigger? A very fun and effective way to find a useful strategy for your business is to experiment a lot.

It is very hard to predict which strategy will make the difference for your business. You can just copy strategies from very successful companies. But there’s a big chance, they won’t be the right ones for you, because other companies deal with particular issues. So you have to find out by yourself. You have to explore in real practice. From Tammy Camp, ‘Distribution Hacker in Residence at 500 Startups’, I’ve learned that a good way to find your strategy is to initiatie three experiments a week, exploring your clients needs and behavior. Check the impact of your experiments. And when you see big impact, this strategy works for you. Expand it!

At this moment I’m experimenting with using Instagram to broaden my platform and get in touch with a bigger audience. I’ve not checked the web-analytics yet, so I’m not sure yet if this is a useful strategy…

6. Make Something

As an innovative entrepreneur you’ve got your ideas about cool new apps, products or environments. There’s a risk that these ideas just stay ideas. That they aren’t being put into practice. If this is a serious risk for you or your business, it might help to makesomething everyday. In an interview with Julian Boorstin from CNBC, Pete Cashmere, CEO and founder of Mashable, shared the suggestion that the best way to be creative is to make something.

If you want to become a moviemaker, you have to make a little movie everyday and learn from your mistakes. If you want to become a comedian, post a joke everyday. Learn from you mistakes. And it gets you in a habit of frequency.

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