Reid Hoffman: Entrepreneurship Rules of Thumb | Summary and Q&A

July 20, 2011
Stanford eCorner
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Reid Hoffman: Entrepreneurship Rules of Thumb

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In this video, the speaker discusses five rules for successful entrepreneurship. These rules include looking for disruptive change, aiming high, building a strong network, planning for both good and bad luck, and maintaining flexible persistence. The speaker emphasizes the importance of thinking globally and assembling a network around the company. They also highlight the need to be adaptable and have backup plans in case things don't go as expected. Ultimately, the speaker compares entrepreneurship to jumping off a cliff and building an airplane on the way down, emphasizing the need for focus and perseverance.

Questions & Answers

Q: Why is it important to look for disruptive change in entrepreneurship?

Looking for disruptive change is important in entrepreneurship because it presents new and significant opportunities. The speaker mentions that opportunities that have been sitting around for years without much thought are rarely the right answer. To have a high impact and make something significant out of a venture, one must identify new opportunities that arise from changes in technology, competitive landscape, or how the global ecosystem comes together. Essentially, the goal is to find opportunities that are large and have the potential for global impact.

Q: What is the significance of aiming high in entrepreneurship?

Aiming high in entrepreneurship is crucial because it sets the bar for the level of impact one wants to achieve. The speaker highlights that the same amount of effort goes into starting a company, whether it's in a fixed-vertical market or something larger. By aiming for something large, even if the end result is smaller, entrepreneurs open themselves up to greater potential and opportunities. Moreover, in today's market ecosystem, thinking globally is essential for high impact companies. Entrepreneurs should strive to play on a global stage and seek out unique and substantial opportunities.

Q: Why is building a network important in entrepreneurship?

Building a network around a company is essential because success is rarely achieved by a single person or idea. The speaker emphasizes that while entrepreneurs are often glorified, it's the collective effort of co-founders, early employees, investors, customers, and other business entities that shapes the success of a venture. Assembling a strong network helps entrepreneurs gain intelligence, access the right resources, and drive their company forward. In terms of practical advice, the speaker suggests leveraging financing to strengthen the network and align interests with potential partners.

Q: How can entrepreneurs plan for both good and bad luck?

Planning for both good and bad luck involves being prepared for unexpected opportunities and obstacles. Good luck can present itself as new opportunities that arise during the entrepreneurial journey. These opportunities may not have been foreseen at the start but require quick action and adaptation. Entrepreneurs should embrace these opportunities and pivot when necessary to take advantage of them. On the other hand, planning for bad luck involves having backup plans in case the original idea or direction is not working. This includes having alternative strategies (plan B) and even worst-case scenarios (plan Z) that ensure the company can still strive for success despite challenges.

Q: What is the concept of "maintain flexible persistence" in entrepreneurship?

"Maintain flexible persistence" is about balancing having a clear vision and being adaptable in response to market feedback. Entrepreneurs are often given contradictory advice: they are encouraged to hold onto their vision and push through challenges while also being advised to listen to customers and be adaptive. The speaker suggests that the key is to maintain both a strong vision and flexibility. This can be achieved through planning frameworks like the A-B-Z framework, where entrepreneurs have a main plan (plan A), alternative approaches (plan B), and even backup plans (plan Z) if nothing seems to be working. By combining a strong vision with adaptability, entrepreneurs can navigate the challenges and uncertainties they encounter.

Q: Why are these rules considered as guidelines rather than laws in entrepreneurship?

These rules are considered as guidelines rather than laws because entrepreneurship is not governed by fixed principles like those in physics. Each company and entrepreneurial journey is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The speaker mentions the consumer internet as an example, where each successful venture carves out its own niche and creates its own unique strategies. While there may be common problems to solve, such as scaling the sales force or financing, how these challenges are addressed and which strategies are employed vary from company to company. These rules serve as general navigation principles that entrepreneurs can adapt and apply based on their specific circumstances.


The key takeaways from this video are: 1) Look for disruptive change and seize new opportunities for global impact. 2) Aim high and set ambitious goals to maximize potential. 3) Build a strong network around your company to gain resources and support. 4) Plan for both good and bad luck, being adaptable and having backup strategies. 5) Maintain flexible persistence by combining a clear vision with adaptability. These rules serve as guidelines for entrepreneurial success, but it's important to remember that each entrepreneurial journey is unique and may require its own approach.

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