As an entrepreneur, one of the perks I enjoy the most is the absolute freedom to do things your own way. There is a constant sense of pride and accomplishment which no other lifestyle (because that’s what entrepreneurship is) or business activity can reproduce.
But it’s not all sunshine and roses as I quickly found out in my first couple of years.
For those just starting out, it’s important to realize that this can be a brutal and unforgiving gig. It demands a lot of mental and physical stamina to keep up as the amount of entrepreneurial pressure is huge.
You take a real beating throughout the journey. There are times where you’re not sure if you can take it anymore, despite all the passion in the world. If you’re not persistent enough to overcome fear and failures, running a business will eat at you until there’s no more meat on the bone.
Don’t just take my word for it. I’ve reached out to a number of entrepreneurs and founders I respect for their business savvy and tenacity to get their quick take on that one piece of advice an up-and-coming, young entrepreneur needs to know.
The first time I did this, the feedback was amazing due to various gems fellow entrepreneurs shared with me.
Below, you’ll find the collective wisdom of a group of people who together has more than 100 years of founding experience. They know what it takes to start, manage, and turn a business into a successful one – but also why and when failures happen.
Here’s what they had to say.
Advice for success to get you started
First up is Jason Feifer, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine, author, keynote speaker, startup advisor, podcaster, and a person who has access to the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. Here’s what he has to say:
“The entrepreneurship community values vulnerability. You’ll be expected to make mistakes, and you’ll build the best connections by admitting them.”
Consequently, go for the big TAMs – total addressable markets. It doesn’t matter how much effort you put – a small market is a small market. What I’ve learned over the years is that it takes almost the same amount of effort to build a business in a small market and build a business in a big market. So, you might as well go after the one with the big TAM.”
Moving on to a friend of mine and an entrepreneur I admire a lot, Chen Levanon. Chen is a serial entrepreneur, currently a founder of a startup in stealth mode. She previously co-founded and led Kumbaya App, SimilarTech, and ClicksMob (acquired in 2017). In 2019, Chen was featured in Silicon Valley Business Journal’s 40 under 40 as an individual to watch.
“Be persistent. Even if you hear ‘no’, try to make it a ‘yes’.
Entrepreneurship is hard.”
You’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days in your entrepreneurial life. If you learn to be persistent from a young age and never give up, it will be incredibly useful, especially when faced with a crisis.
It’s cliché but I am the living embodiment of how it has held true throughout my life and career.”
Next up is Hilla Ovil-Brenner, a serial entrepreneur in the high-tech industry for the past 20 years. She is the co-founder & CEO at Yazamiyot – Women Entrepreneurs, a non-profit group for women entrepreneurs, and is a founder at three more companies. Hilla has extensive mentorship experience and is currently a startup mentor at Microsoft, IBM, and other platforms and programs. She also holds an advisory board member role at numerous startups, which makes her one of the undisputed champions of the Israeli startup ecosystem.
“Be passionate about what you do.
good founder is a matter of great passion – passion for creating new things and following your dreams. The main goal is not to find a good idea as there are many good ideas out there, but to find a solution for a real problem that needs to be solved while being passionate about it.
The value of an idea lies in its execution. You need to believe in yourself, work hard, take risks, keep an open mind, accept your limitations, and never stop dreaming.”
Keren Leshem is a seasoned executive with over 20 years of experience in the medical device & pharmaceutical industries, specializing in the management of innovative startups, strategy, commercialization, biz dev, and financing. She is the CEO of OCON Healthcare, former and current board member, and a mentor at 8400 – The Health Network. She has been recently named Top Women in Business by Jewish Business News.
“My one piece of advice is to build a team (can be one or two people only, doesn’t have to be a group) that shares your vision and passion about the idea, and will work together to make it happen. This cannot be family or friends though, it has to be someone who’s ‘done it’ or from the industry.”
Asaf Paz, fellow entrepreneur and founder, founded his first company WEBSEM when he was 21 years old. Some 15 years later and two exits later, he’s in charge of building, training, and leading teams at Google with a focus on business growth, engagement, and client satisfaction. There’s one particularly important thing for Asaf:
“Develop a growth mindset. You will face many challenges and difficulties along the way, the key is to see them as learning opportunities.”
It’s a great point that is fairly underrepresented in the broader entrepreneurship scheme. Successful people understand they can get smarter through hard work, effective strategizing, and help from others when needed. When they believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger, which leads to higher achievement. Simple, right?
Roee Kashi is the co-founder and CTO at Elsight, a solution provider of hybrid, AI-powered high-bandwidth connectivity solutions for stationary, portable, or actively mobile situational devices. With almost 13 years since founding the company in a specific tech segment, Roee had this to say:
“As an entrepreneur, you’re in a constant self-conflict of interests between the entrepreneur part of you and your position in the company. Carefully pick your problem-solving toolbox (entrepreneur’s or of your position) because a company at growth needs a CEO that acts as a CEO and a CTO that acts as a CTO, and so on.
When structuring your team, put your ego aside and objectively think about what’s in the best interest of the company.
Don’t let your first customers drag you into some sort of a “client pleaser syndrome” where you always feel you need to extend your solution to please your clients. Build a fortress around your vision and roadmap.
When you’re wasting your time on things just because they’re “strategic”, challenge yourself. It’s usually nothing but an excuse to do things that don’t correlate with the data. Intuition is good, and so is impressing third parties, but it should get its own weight in a data-driven decision-making metric.
Don’t get too sentimental about your idea, product, and technology. It’s ok to change your vision, pivot your product or solution, but do it when you’re fully aware of it.
There is a sacrifice, that’s true, but it doesn’t mean you need to neglect your personal life, whether it’s with your partner, your family, or your friends. They are the story of your life much more than your company is.”
Moving on to the marketing side of the business for a bit, first up is Noa Eshed – marketer, entrepreneur, podcaster, and best-selling Amazon author. She is a co-founder and General Manager at Bold Digital Architects, a content marketing agency, and has over a decade of experience helping startups strategize, build authority online, and grow. Noa is also a partner in Haven Originals, a concept development production house.
“Your team is your most important “asset”. Never compromise – if you feel someone is not a good fit, you’re not wrong. If someone is mediocre, they won’t become great. If someone is great but not a cultural fit, it won’t work. Also, a team that works well remotely is unbeatable so don’t let borders limit you. Go for talent.
You don’t have to be everything for everybody. Find a niche and double down on areas where you can shine. Make sure you share the same values as your partners and value trust above all. If you’re not passionate about your work – pause the race, pull over, and listen to what your heart is trying to tell you. The most successful people enjoy what they’re doing, and that doesn’t have to be conventional or what your parents hoped you’d be.
No need to do just one thing. There’s power in diversifying and connecting between seemingly irrelevant areas. It’s more than ok to dedicate a percentage of your time to areas that don’t return a profit. Value can be measured in many different ways.”
As a co-founder and CMO of her own agency Cacao Media which has offices in New York City, Tel Aviv, and Nairobi, Resa Gooding has been running her own business for almost five years now, establishing herself as one of the foremost Hubspot experts in the world. She’s also a mentor at MassChallenge Israel, a global network for innovators that empowers entrepreneurs to grow. Here’s what Resa had to say:
“Hire slowly, fire fast.
Advice I wished I had stuck to when I began my journey as an entrepreneur. In the beginning, you will have to wear all the hats but eventually, having a good team will help take off some of the pressure you will face as an entrepreneur.
But what should be your first hire, you ask? I suggest to start with filling the roles for the jobs you aren’t quite good at or don’t generally like doing. As Sara Blakely puts it: “As soon as you can afford to, hire your weaknesses.””
Yoel Israel is a B2B marketing expert who is a founder of WadiDigital, a LinkedIn-first, digital agency that focuses on B2B tech & cybersecurity companies, and founder of Cyfluencer, a startup that solves influencer marketing for B2B tech companies
“Entrepreneurs have to understand that other people do not operate or think like we do. You must keep grinding day-to-day, but have the patience and vision to break through in the medium term.”
Next up is Larry Kenigsberg, co-founder and CEO of K2 Global Communications – marketing, communications, and PR company that serves clients around the globe. Larry’s 20+ year career as a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst allowed him to make some really interesting remarks about the entrepreneurial spirit:
“The most important thing to know is yourself. If you’re the tool by which success will or won’t happen, the better you know your tool, the better the work will be.
Honestly assessing yourself is very difficult, you may want to elicit feedback about this – whether you want to hear it or not.
A major tripping point for many is their relation to money. If you approach business with either a sense of entitlement or desperation, you’re in trouble. How strong is your moral core? Can people use the money to easily manipulate you? If so, again, you’re in trouble.
The ability to admit mistakes and learn the requisite lessons from them is essential. I’ve met people who were on their way to sinking their third company, for all the same reasons they crashed the first two. These leaders generally lack insight and are resistant to outside input – if it doesn’t agree with them.
Are you honest about your strengths and weaknesses? Can you bring your weaknesses up to speed, or are you willing to surround yourself with people who have your weaknesses as core strengths?
While you may find yourself doing everything at the beginning, an honest self-assessment will lead you to interact more wisely, while selecting staff in a way that compliments strengths, addresses weaknesses, and creates an environment that’s geared toward progress.”
Mika Bella Kayt is currently the CEO and co-founder of Outgage, a SaaS “marketing first” direct mail platform. As a Zell Entrepreneurship Program alum, Mika co-founded two startups and has a diverse background in business development. She offered these bits of wisdom:
“Continuously build and nurture your network and relationships. Connect, consult, and get help in building your network with and from trustworthy founders that are further along in their startup (and ultimately decide what’s right for you, take advice with a grain of salt). Some people are right for the team at different times in the business, it’s ok if they’re not right at other times.
Don’t wait to get it “perfect”. Your market will forgive you for an imperfect product (that you’ll improve), it won’t forgive you for being late to market.
Fundraising is a strategic choice that will impact your startup throughout. It has pros and cons, think through what growth path is the best way to go for your business.
Sleep is not a privilege – it’s a need and your startup isn’t a sprint it’s a marathon. An unhealthy, tired/cranky/unhappy founder is not an effective founder over time. Not for the company, not as a leader, not as a person that others would enjoy doing business with. Make time to stay fit and for other activities that will help you be happy and healthy.”
Moving on to Assaf Ben-David, a business and legal mentor and advisor to startups worldwide. His founding experience includes a legal clinic for startups and two e-commerce websites. Assaf’s mission is to help entrepreneurs and early stage startups fulfill their dreams and reach their goals.
“Choose your co-founders as if you are choosing your life partner. Before building the partnership, build the relationship because the partnership/business can’t survive without the relationship.”
Tamar Schapira is a CEO and co-founder at SenseIT, a SaaS company automating manual testing techniques that test usability for people with disabilities – a company she bootstrapped. She has over a decade of experience in management and business development, and has co-founded two more startups.
“I don’t know if I can offer just one piece of advice, but I would say – just keep an eye on YOUR goal.
It’s so easy to get distracted and start looking around at competitors, market, or listen to unsolicited advice. Keeping your eye on your goal means you focus on your plan, your KPIs.”
Last but certainly not least is Roee Raz, co-founder and CEO of OVIVO Games, one of the most promising hyper-casual mobile gaming studios. Roee also has extensive mentoring experience,
“A great team is truly the biggest ingredient for success. It is the pillar on which a startup is built. Choose your core team wisely and witness how things start falling into place smoothly. This will make the journey towards your vision far easier and quicker.
Also – don’t consult pessimistic people. In my experience, they’ll find a good problem for any solution, and you don’t want that.”
In a lot of ways, becoming an entrepreneur is about making a good or bad decision each and every time. There is no middle ground.
So, you have to embrace the general nature of entrepreneurship: getting better by learning.
The will to learn is one of the key traits of a successful entrepreneur. My father always said that he’s just maximizing his potential whenever someone asked him about his eagerness to learn. If we are open to new perspectives and ideas, we can learn to do extraordinary things.
We live in a knowledge economy where continual learning is critical, not an option. Hence, knowledge is among the most valuable currencies, particularly when it drives innovation. That’s why learning is arguably the most important investment you can make in your business.
And if you can learn from the examples of others who walked the path you’re on, all the better.