Mark Britton, the president of Avvo, joined the UW (Bothell) MBA students for a breakfast last Friday (10/8/2010). He shared his perspective on how to run a successful start-up; the need to have a big market, a unique product/service to offer and a strong team. He said that you need to know your market inside out, be able to distinguish yourself from the competition and choose your core team carefully so that you can be sure that they are smarter than you and be able to replace you.
He shared that hard work was part of the small business nature, work life balance was a challenge and criticism from competitors was unavoidable. He spent the first year talking to lawyers and now has more than 50,000 Questions and Answers per month at his web site avvo.com. He attributed the success to his team and the agile like software development model that enables the firm to respond to the needs of the marketplace.
He reminded us that a start-up has a very different culture than a big corporation. If a corporate employee is thinking of a start-up, they need to understand the fast pace and culture of a start-up; and how to defend against patent litigation. He said that it is necessary to do diligent research to find out if your idea has already been patented by one of your competitors. If your idea has not been patented, file your own.