Home Five Skills You Need for Startup Success, According to Ethernet Inventor Bob Metcalfe

Five Skills You Need for Startup Success, According to Ethernet Inventor Bob Metcalfe

Ethernet inventor and generally accomplished tech super-guy Bob Metcalfe gave a great opening keynote talk at this morning’s Capital Factory Demo Day in Austin, Texas. The event has been good so far and is live streaming online for free.

Metcalfe offered a wide ranging talk to open the day but included some tasty tidbits in the form of two lists: five personal skills that entrepreneurs need to develop in order to succeed in building tech companies that scale and six types of people a startup ecosystem needs to include in order to foster success.

Five Skills Entrepreneurs Need

  1. Be healthy. Are startups all about pulling all nighters and eating ramen noodles? Steve Jobs wasn’t like that in his early days, Metcalfe argues. You need to be healthy. “Don’t buy into this bullshit that you need to drive yourself into the ground,” he said. “You should sleep eight hours a day. The trick is to figure out when you need to get up and then go to sleep eight hours before that.”
  2. Writing. Lots of people have great stories that get left in the bar, Jack London once said. Metcalfe says entrepreneurs should develop writing skills by writing about what they are doing all the time – it’s an important part of thinking, communicating and selling.
  3. Speaking. “I have given more speeches…than you have,” Metcalfe joked. You have to be a good speaker, he says. Speak every chance you can and get better at it. Metcalfe is very good at it.
  4. Selling. Startups don’t value sales people and skills highly enough, Metcalfe argues. Even engineers need to be able to sell their ideas internally and they need to be able to gather resources from inside and outside their companies.
  5. Planning. “You can’t change your plan if you don’t have one,” Metcalfe says. You need a process for regularly reviewing your plans.

Metcalfe said that the phrase people use for bringing in older, more experienced CEOs as “adult supervision” might be patronizing, but it’s really about bringing in an infusion of human capital in the form of skills like the above.

Related: Metcalfe’s list of six key types of people that a business ecosystem needs to foster success: Research professors, graduating students, scaling entrepreneurs, angel investors, strategic partners and early adopters.

The group that’s in shortest supply is usually scaling entrepreneurs: there’s no shortage of ideas, just of people skilled at managing them. Often most overlooked is the importance of early adopters. In the US, there are people who will buy from startups – that’s not the case in many other parts of the world.

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