YEC Member Spotlight: Gideon Kimbrell, Founder, InList
Gideon Kimbrell is a Miami, FL, software engineer and serial entrepreneur. His software engineering work has been praised by companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Barnes & Noble and St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Born in Montana in a log cabin, he entered university at age 15. By 16 he had programmed his first “hot or not” style website. He is the founder of InList.com. InList curates the most exclusive international nightlife and charity events. Follow him @gideonkimbrell.
Who is your hero?
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
I was taught that paranoia is necessary. A former CEO I worked beside handed down tips from the book “Only the Paranoid Survive,” which have stayed with me over the years. Assume anything you build will fail, assume there are flaws, assume people will leave eventually, and assume everyone make mistakes. When you receive a “finished” product from your team, assume it is not finished. Force the universe to prove you wrong. Business is no place for the naive.
Once you have mastered this, your new mindset and paradigm will naturally be “OK, how do I prepare for these things?” You will find yourself not only better prepared, but also more calm when the unexpected occurs.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
My biggest mistake was in building something that I thought I would find useful. You yourself are not a focus group!
The most important thing you can do to build your business properly for long-term success is immediately get in front of your customers and start figuring out their problems LONG before you start building ANYTHING. Meet with suppliers, customers, investors, bankers, commissioners and anyone else that could possibly affect your business.
Entrepreneurs often believe that if they tell their suppliers what they want to build, they will steal their idea. This is impossible. Nobody has your vision. Nobody will have the passion for the project that you will. Ideas are a dime a dozen, but how you execute on the idea is what will make or break the venture.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
As soon as I wake up I clear all notifications – whether they be new emails, new LinkedIn requests, new apps to install, missed calls, or new voicemails. I do not bother to reply right away. Instead I flag emails I want to reply to later, and move other to-do items to my notes in a prioritized order.
I want to be aware of any emergencies before I start my day. However, I don’t want to spend time replying to all my emails until most of my day is over. If a particular email is important, I will put it in my calendar to remind myself later that day. This process takes less than an hour and I am then able to focus on the larger long-term priorities, check project status, review with my team, etc.
What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Expose yourself to some risk. If your new startup is just a hobby, it will never succeed. You have to feel the pinch to be motivated enough to make it work. Every startup has those first few dead weeks or months. If you have another project or job you can rely on, you will be far less motivated to establish positive cash flow in your startup.
Once you have cash flow in the business, start paying expenses from income. Monthly P&L is necessary. Keep a clear history of any debt. If you spend $100,000 starting a business and you make $50,000, you shouldn’t be celebrating just yet.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Find a way to spend at least 15 hours a week with three people who are better than you in some way.
You actually lose out by always being the smartest person in the room. We must be surrounded by people who are more skilled, better connected and more powerful than us in order to become better ourselves. Keep your loyal friends and your support group, but challenge yourself.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Success is quite naturally being happy in whatever you do. Some call this fulfillment. As humans, we crave usefulness. We become quite depressed if we are not needed in some way. Studies have shown the people who live the longest are those who felt needed by those around them. It kept them alive longer than drugs, diet, genetics or location ever could. I think most entrepreneurs find success when they realize they have made a positive impact in many people’s lives through what they built.