Jeff Hoffman’s keys to success for entrepreneurs

Jeff Hoffman, a highly successful serial entrepreneur and innovator (part of the founding teams of Priceline.com and Ubid.com as well as various entertainment industry companies) inspired the Spring 2019 VentureScaleUp cohort at Catalyst Spaces last week. He spoke on one of his favorite subjects, keys to success for entrepreneurs before spending time with each of VSU’s cohort members. Backed by his own experience and those of his successful entrepreneur friends, (like Jeff Bezos and Sam Walton), Jeff’s talk illustrated the keys that have made him and his friends successful:

  • Start by solving a real problem – Is there a real value equation?
    • Solve a problem a lot of people care about – most startups I see are solving problems very few people care about.
  • Don’t chase money, chase excellence – Money follows excellence
    • When you build something amazing that people want you will get paid.
  • Win a gold medal at ONE THING
    • Amazon won a gold medal selling books. Be the best in the world at one thing – your customers will ask you do to do other things if you are successful.
  • Find your brand asset
    • Find the ONE most compelling reason your customers buy from you and market that. It should be distinguishing, memorable, and powerful.
  • Develop true customer intimacy – Get out of the office!
    • Your team is not your customer. Listen to your customers where they are.
  • Market in “concentric circles”
    • Start with the niche market that will love your product and easily buy it. These will be your “fans who will love your product and market for you.
  • Find “second slide” customers
    • Your first customers are the ones that say yes on the second slide of your presentation – go find all the people who have been looking all over for a solution like this 
  • Market to intent not activity
    • Don’t misunderstand consumer behavior for intent. Learn what need your customers are satisfying and market to it.
  • Focus on operational excellence
    • Make sure everything your team does leads to one of your goals. Each team member should be able to articulate how the task they are doing is supporting one of your startup’s goals.
  • Build a great team
    • Hire people smarter than you in everything you are not excellent at. The scarcest resource in the world is not money, its TALENT

Jeff closed with this: “Are you doing the thing you are best at? Are you doing the thing you love doing? Are you doing something the world values? If so, amazing things will happen”.