5 Principles of Entrepreneurship

Business Building

I self-identify as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are people who cause something valuable to come into existence. The classic story involves a garage, ofcourse, but you don’t have to be tiny or self-funded to be one. At Peer Insight, I mostly work with entrepreneurs who happen to be employed by large (often behemoth) organizations. Here are my top five principles of entrepreneurship. I believe they apply equally, whether you are starting in a garage or leading a corporate venture.

1. Know Thyself

Study yourself through your own eyes and the eyes of others. Get a mentor. Your blind spots will kill your venture, so you’d better know them and fill the gaps with talented collaborators.

2. Set Limits

Define what’s affordable to you (and your family), and don’t go beyond it. I started my first venture in my late 30s and felt pretty flush: I staked $250k of my money in the business and had the ability to work without a salary for six months. I never exceeded those thresholds. For others, the threshold may be six weeks and $6,000, but the principle is the same.

3. Lead with Confidence + Curiosity

Lots of people will say you must always believe in your business, but that will get you in trouble. Always believe in yourself, but have a healthy skepticism about your business. Confidence + Curiosity is resilient, whereas Certainty + Bravado isbrittle. Just say to yourself, “What I know is valuable, but it isn’t enough to get me to where I’ve never been before.”

4. Embrace Rapid Learning

You’re entering the unknown. How else will you measure progress?  Learn through in-market experiments. Knowing what doesn’t work is the first step to figuring out what does work. Just doit fast.

5. Befriend Your Fear

Your “ick” feeling has important information encoded. When it shows up, listen to it and take action. In my first startup, I got a bad feeling about a prospective partnership and asked for an additional week to consider it with my board. The partner behaved as if he was insulted. The next week his firm announced a deal with my only competitor – a deal that almost certainly had been in the works while they were digging into my firm’s IP and business plans!

Did I miss a principle of entrepreneurship that has made you successful? I’d love to hear it (I’ll embrace it as an opportunity for rapid learning!).


Tim Ogilvie


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