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Matt Coffin is proud he sold his company too soon, thinks shared focus paves the road to success
At this year's Vator Splash LA, at the Fairmont in Santa Monica, attendees gott to explore the Internet tech companies brewing in the warm, salty SoCal world.
Matt Coffin, the founder and president of LowerMyBills.com, which sold for $330 million in 2005 to Experian, started the keynotes off for the evening. In addition to building LowerMyBills, Coffin was a member of the Board of Directors for Business.com and has invested in start-ups such as Demand Media, Docstoc, Machinima ShowDazzle and Ecomom.
Coffin shared with the Splash attendees about just what it takes to get your start-up to become a success story and not a a floundering business.
Here are some key points that Coffin made about being one of the few to make it:
-- Winning = Timing+ Skill + Luck and Focused Hard Work.
-- Timing is about finding a rising tide. You want to be a part of a rising tide. Right now video is a rising tide segment and monetization is moving there rapidly.
-- Skill: an entrepreneur has to be able to make good choices and take their experience to move in the right direction.
-- Focused Hard Work: I went underground for five or six years and worked 25 hours a day eight days a week. Balance just didn't exist for me. If it was easy, every moron would be doing it. I would frequently fall asleep at a restaurant dinner table because I was just putting everything into the company that I was working on.
-- Winning and succeeding in the face of the reality that most people will fail takes an insane level of hard work.
--Raising money is about dating and delivering. Dating is about meeting someone multiple times. If you are delivering, then they see how you have built previous relationships and find you to be a better bet.
-- You don't raise your funding next year or in September, you are constantly working on your relationships with those key players -- you don't wait. You plan for funding.
-- Winning or Bankruptcy -- the 10% rule. Little 10% moving levers in your business make all the difference and is where the battle really is. There is a small shift between kicking ass and bankruptcy in most young start-ups.
-- Now and Not Now -- I am a big believer in breaking up your to-do list into now and not now rather than having a long list that just can't be handled. This helps people inside your company focus on the items that are now and can see that their concerns are noted somewhere, just not to be addressed now.
-- Most board members and even some employees are not obsessing about your business like you are. You often have to remind them, "This is the business that we are in." It is so important to maximize the use of board members by keeping them in the context as much as possible.
-- Even when it looks bleak, you need to keep pushing and find new and better ways to keep the boat on course.
-- Having more than one revenue stream is a failed model. Usually that means you have failed revenue streams that you don't have the guts to kill. It is so vital for early-stage companies to stop doing things that are not working. That doesn't mean only put one person on that project -- it means stop.
-- If you think it's not working, it isn't. Once the founder is aware of something that isn't working, you should also be aware that you are the last one to know and the company has been waiting for you to do something.
-- Experienced the first $1 million revenue day the same day that I signed the paper to sell the company. This reminds me of what JP Morgan said when he was asked how he got rich and he replied that he sold too soon. I think those are wise words and say something about my decision to sell LowerMyBills when I did.
-- My main goal was that I wanted to be able to go into any restaurant and order anything without looking at any of the prices.
-- As an investor, I don't care about your next business, please don't tell me about it. Frankly it makes me think that you are not a focused entrepreneur.
--The main thing that i look for in a team that is in front of me is that each person is bringing different skills. I don't want to see two engineers or two business men, I want a dynamic team with lots of skills that complement one another.
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