Lasse Andresen, Smpl’s start-up titan, on building his billion-dollar company, why he doesn’t trust ‘unique’ ideas, and the power of getting started.
I’ve got one golden rule for building a successful company
It’s simple: never have a Plan B. You’ve got to focus on one thing. If you’re not all about Plan A then you don’t believe in what you’re doing. That’s when stuff really, really goes downhill.
When I’m building a company I may change the plan a little bit every day, every week, every month, but that’s based on learning. It’s still Plan A.
My billion-dollar company started where they all do: as an idea
When we floated [software company] Forgerock in New York, the founders all got together and we talked about when we’d started the firm. It was 12 years before. We were just five friends huddled around a fire who decided to build a company based on some wild ideas.
It didn’t come easy. We went without pay for two years. We pawned empty bottles for a bit of cash! My car was an old thing that belched smoke… But, as I’ve said, we were all about Plan A.
You’ve got to believe. You’ve got to be curious and tireless. And… please… be nice and make sure you have fun along the way.
Find a problem and fix it
Too many people have a solution and go looking for a problem. One thing I’ve learned is you’ve got to talk to your customers from day one to find out what they need. You’ve got to test your ideas as soon as possible — even if you don’t even have a product!
Get a prototype and get out there and test it. Inventing something and hoping somebody will figure out a way to use it will never fly.
If your idea doesn’t solve a problem, or it doesn’t create new services that grow another business’s top line, that idea is going to die.
Don’t be too early or too stupid
This is a simple but crucial point.
Lots of innovators and entrepreneurs get obsessed with their idea being unique. They fetishize it.
The problem is, if you’re the only person on the planet with this idea then there’s a good chance you’re too early or it’s just stupid.
Sorry about that.
Just bloody do it
The power of an idea – however good – is only ever in its execution. Too many people are talking about companies and talking about ideas. Very few are actually doing it.
Be the person who does it. It might be scary but that’s fine; there’s no safe way to do something new or different, particularly if that’s a creating a whole new company.
I always tell anyone who has an idea that ‘you can’t be half pregnant’. Either you are or you aren’t. I can give you all my ideas, but you still need to execute them.
Of course, you’ll then need to evolve the idea as you learn what’s possible, what’s profitable, and what is useful to the market you’re serving. But you’ll be doing it – and that’s a lot more than most people can say.