“Building a Business” means something very different to me.

I saw this post today on VentureBeat about free courses being offered by Stanford to “Build Your Business


It doesn’t matter how much “cryptology” you use, or how good your “graphical models” are, or how “creative you are”  if you can’t get people to buy the product – if you don’t have people who want to PAY you for it.  You will eventually go out of business!    (BTW:  are they seriously trying to teach how to be creative?  isn’t that in your nature or not? of course, I feel the same way about teaching you how to be an entrepreneur, you either are or you aren’t – it can’t be taught).

On the same day, there was a post on Business Insider about how Tumblr ignored revenue for too long and is now feeling the heat.

I say it over and over again, your product does not matter if people don’t want it.  It has to solve a critical problem.  And if you aren’t thinking about sales from day 1, you are already too late.  You don’t build a product for product sake, you build it so that people will buy it – so that you can bring in revenue and make a living for your employees.  Spending some angel’s money or some VC fund’s limited partner’s money just for fun is NOT what being an entrepreneur is about – and it always shocks me that business schools have not figured this out!  There is only one common thread in EVERY company in the world – and that is selling.

In every company that I have started, revenue has always been the main focus in inception.  If I couldn’t think about how the company made money, I moved onto another idea.   The revenue can certainly be indirect, but there has to be a monetization strategy somewhere – otherwise you are just spending investors money “playing company.”

When I have been brought into companies to rescue them, it is always about bringing revenue in- and its certainly much easier when there are plans for this from the get go.

So… certainly take these free classes from Stanford – but don’t forget that “building your product” does not mean “building your business”.  If you are building your “business” then revenue should 100% be a component of that discussion.



  • future4ever

    “In every company that I have started, revenue has always been the main focus in inception.”

    By this line of thought, facebook would never exist. Neither would twitter, spacex, foursquare, or new companies shaping the future (vicarious systems, halcyon molecular, etc).

    We are approaching a post-capital world within the next 2 to 3 generations (makerbots, DIY biology, etc). We should prepare ourselves accordingly. Focusing on revenue as a first step may get you and your employees/investors some money within a decade, but it won’t change the world (at a time when private enterprise is critical to changing the world). This line of thought will vanish in a century or 2.

    This is why you don’t see a sales course @ Stanford. Product first, sales second, always. If this world has any hope for a future, I hope it stays that way forever.

  • Mark LaRosa

    You are talking about the exception to the rule. Yes, there are certain visionaries that can change the world and do so.

    Ask yourself why every VC fund counts on only 1 or 2 in 10 to succeed? I can point to lack of sales focus – and when the decision to focus on revenue occurs, its often too late.

    I would also challenge you on whether facebook, twitter or 4SQ had NO knowledge of how they would monetize their audience once they built it. From the beginning, twitter got its investment on the belief that once you built an audience, you could monetize it in many ways.

    I see way too many entrepreneurs thinking they are the next Zuckerberg or Crowley – when they are not and if they had focused on revenue earlier, they would have made a difference.

    Apple is 100% focused on revenue and is changing the world.

    Companies like LinkedIn, Salesforce, Amazon, Microsoft, and many, many others all focused on revenues AND changed the world AND built sustainable and valuable businesses.