10 Tips for building a killer startup, according to Moshi Monsters CEO Michael Acton Smith

Oct 31, 2013
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The following is a guest post from Mike Sottak, President of Wire Island International. You can follow him on Twitter at @WiredIslandPR

Everybody loves Top 10 lists so it only seemed fitting that the Dublin Web Summit included a version of its own, aptly aimed at the entrepreneurial crowd. Playfully presented by kid’s entertainment ‘rock star’ Michael Acton Smith, the list was a combination of sometimes hokey but tried-and-true rules to run a start-up, spiced with a few nuggets drawn from Smith’s own experiences – good and bad – with Mind Candy (creators of Moshi Monsters) and his first commercial start-up called Firebox.com.

Given that this guy was recognized at the 2013 World Economic Forum as a technology pioneer, we should probably listen to him.

Make beautiful mistakes

Smith emphasized that “there’s nothing wrong with screwing up! Embrace failures, wear the scar tissues.” He further elaborated that a beautiful mistake is one that is made quickly and put behind you.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Simply put: Focus, focus focus…on what your do well and avoid unnecessary distractions or side routes.

What’s your story

Never underestimate the power of a good story and don’t get bogged down (or bore your listeners) with data and statistics. Want the press to take notice of your company? Communicate and share an emotional story, a human angle.

Dream big

“Have crazy big dreams.” Smith cited Mind Candy’s own company BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal): Create the greatest entertainment company in the digital world. Or as a business mentor of mine once said, “You have to think anyway, so why not think big?”

Say yes to parties

Smith encouraged the audience to get out of the office and network, mingle, meet new people (which seemed to be well understood by the10,000 people in attendance at the Web Summit, most the eagerly awaiting the Night Summit festivities to follow in the pubs and clubs of Dublin).

Work hard and be nice to people

While the working hard bit is understood by most entrepreneurs, sometimes the people thing gets lost. “Business is all about people, humans. We try to get people to buy our stuff, to come work for us, to invest in us.”

Stay hungry, stay foolish

With due credit to Steve Jobs for the original quote, Smith wholeheartedly endorsed the spirit of his thoughts. “You’ve got to be passionate. Become obsessive.  Read everything. The more bits of the puzzle you have the closer you are to seeing the whole picture.”

Trust your instincts.

Probably the most often broken of the rules Smith offered up. He urged the crowd to trust their guts, learn to believe in the way your body sends you subconscious information.

 Keep it simple.

Don’t over-engineer. Take out features, don’t add more in. Learn lessons from the design and simplicity of Apple, Google, and Instagram.

Ask for forgiveness not permission.

OK, what self-respecting entrepreneur doesn’t already know that?

Photo via The Irish Times