This post was contributed by Johnson ZeCheng, an Information and Systems Management student from Singapore Management University.

Undeniably, we are living in an era where technopreneurship is highly appreciated. The success of many western internet companies including Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter triggers man youngsters’ desire for success. While many ambitious youngsters are not lacking in passion, there is only a small number that finally reap the fruits of success.

So, what exactly is the secret to a successful start-up company?

While one’s success is not guaranteed, some invaluable insights from people who have done it before can benefit us.

At Echelon 2011, I had the honour of interviewing Derek Sivers (founder of ‘CD baby’), Mark Hsu (renowned serial entrepreneur) and Jeffery Paine (founder of ‘Founder Institute’).

Here are the valuable insights I gained from talking to them:

Nobody can predict the future!

Probably the most frequently-asked question at every IT conference is “What are the IT trends in the years to come?” Regarding this million-dollar question, Mr Sivers gave a concise answer, “I don’t know!”

Back in 2004 when Facebook was first launched, was there anyone who prophesized that SNS was going to be the next big thing? Was there anyone who predicted that Facebook would become a $50 billion business? Did anyone foresee that a simple SNS website could post such a big threat to Google, the seemingly unbeatable internet giant?

While it’s true that many internet giants are currently flocking into white-hot businesses like cloud computing, e-commerce, SNS and mobile apps, entering these emerging areas blindly does not necessarily increase one’s chance of success. The core of internet business neither lies in the complexity nor the novelty of technologies. Instead, as Mr Sivers emphasized, it is the amount of value, happiness and the stickiness that a company creates for customers that matters the most.

Stop dreaming and take action!

As the saying goes, “Good ideas are common, what’s uncommon are people who will work hard enough to bring them about!”

Too many ambitious youngsters stay at the stage where they keep dreaming without having the courage to take the first step. This inactivity is so detrimental that it will gradually diminish the inspiration of these potential technopreneurs and lead them on the path to mediocrity.

We are living in an age where resources for start-ups are unprecedentedly accessible. A plethora of opportunities are out there for grabs. Hence, one should take the initiative to participate in different events, immerse themselves in idea brainstorming sessions, expand personal networks and pitch for funding. The originally far-fetched goal could become more and more achievable by doing so.

Moreover, don’t wait until everything is perfect to start building your business. Instead, the “3A” philosoph of, “Aim, Adjust, Aim”, should be employed. Start weaving your dream once a basic plan is in place; learn lessons from mistakes, adjust the strategies along the way and continue moving forward.        

Circle of humility

To my surprise, most of the leaders who I interacted with were very humble, which reminded me of the story of “circles of knowledge” and “boundaries of ignorance”. The more one knows the more one realizes how much one doesn’t know and thus end up being more humble.

There is a limit to a person’s capability, no matter how versatile he or she may be. Since different people have different areas of expertise, a sole person can’t compete with a team whose competencies complement each other.

According to Mr Sivers, “Humility is of extreme importance in doing business. Founders should be honest to their own strengths and weaknesses because they don’t have the answers to everything!  In the face of difficulty, they should be willing to seek a mentor who is more experienced than them!”

Being humble and open-minded is critical for every start-up as it allows you to see your true self and thus help you benefit from the right teammates and mentors.

Be patient to reap the sweet fruits of success!

The last tip is to be patient. Contrary to popular belief, the return of investment (ROI) of internet-based business is relatively slow. In this case, companies should hold onto their vision and focus on creating customer value rather than giving up easily or sell the company at the infancy stage. When the time is ripe, you can monetize handsomely from your business and taste the fruits of success.

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.

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