Founding a Start Up – What Does It Take

Jeff Taylor, founder of Monster moderated a discussion with Kayak’s founder Paul English, Rue La La’s Ben Fischman and Gazelle’s Israel Ganot: The Kick Off Event for the 2012 HBSAB Alumni New Venture Contest


HBSAB kicked off our 2012 New Venture Program on January 9th with our Co-Chair of the Program and founder of Monster.com, Jeff Taylor, hosting a panel of other successful entrepreneurs on what it takes to win in the world of start-ups.

First, a big thank you to the new Harvard Innovation Lab which hosted our kick-off! 

The contest this year has cash prizes for local winners and contestants are now allowed to have up to $2 million in current revenue and up to $1 million in equity and an HBS alum must be an operating member of the team with significant equity.  For more information click here

Much of the evening centered on finding the right people at the right time and then making them part of your team.  Taylor noted that you should, “always have your eyes open for talent, even in places you might not expect it.”  He also noted that as a company grows it is just as essential to hire where you are strong as you are weak.  He learned from his own experiences with Monster.com when he tried to implement ideas, but found no “co-pilots” with similar skills on-board.

All of the speakers agreed that Boston is a great place to be - from the universities to the cultural connections to investors to the talent that will stay with companies.  Israel Ganot noted all were “bullish on the Boston market” and a “fantastic place to start a business.”  Much of this again went to finding the right talent and the right investors.  Paul English talked about the importance of finding investors that are great advisors, friends, and come from a strong firm.

When it came to the specifics of starting their own companies, Ben Fischman talked about creating a strong brand identity, giving the example that, “Rue La La means everything, and at the same time nothing.”  He went on later to talk about choosing teammates to turn Rue La La into a success, “first four employees are the most important hires because they will set the example for all others so that everyone will want to work at your company”.  English compared running start-ups to building and running a winning sports team and how winners are important. 

All of the speakers agreed that ideas don’t matter - it is all about execution.  Leadership matters, the team matters.  Success translates to success.  And, relentless pursuit of making your ideas real is absolutely necessary for success.  Taking no cannot be an option.  All of this is what it takes to found the successful start-up. 

We hope to see many of you with this same idea mindset to be a part of the New Venture Contest!

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