The first-time entrepreneur's myth is that your idea is going to grow and grow. That's what most startup founders think. What actually happens is that everything takes longer at the beginning, and then you release the product, and then it fails a high percentage of the time.

Then, if you're like most entrepreneurs, you flop around and try to figure out what the real problem business problem was - and it's usually not even something that was in the original business plan. This stage is called morphing, according to Howard Love's The Start-Up J Curve: The Six Steps to Entrepreneurial Success. If you morph properly, you let go of the things you thought your startup was going to be but isn't, and you refashion your product. What you wind up with at the end of this process is usually pretty different from what you thought you'd wind up creating.

Now, things are getting a little better, but you've got to figure out how to make money off of this sucker. After all, the monetization process isn't going to be what you thought it would be, since the product isn't what you thought it would be. Once you have the model nailed you can scale it. That's the J curve.

Just think: what if you could avoid all of that? Or at least, make the right decisions at each stage to increase your odds of success?

As you're growing your startup, it's not uncommon to occasionally wish you had a crystal ball to know what to expect over the next few years. I know I've certainly wanted that as I've been building Firebrand Group from an idea to a recognized futureproofing firm. And while I'm a few years into my journey, I'm always on the search for books that will illuminate the path I need to be on. Enter The Start-Up J Curve.

Everyone wants to develop a focused roadmap for his or her young business, and Love's book is impressive in that it focuses itself around one core idea - the J Curve - that's applicable to most startups.

Part of my job at Firebrand Group is advising young startups, who often confide that they sometimes feel like ping-pong balls, careening from one random situation to another. One day, it's one crucial decision; the next day, another. Love brings his 35-plus years of experience working with startups to bear to explain that nearly all startups, shockingly, share a similar, predictable, growth pattern. "I learned the hard way, and after 35 years, patterns do start to emerge," explained Love when he stopped by our headquarters for a chat.

The Start-Up J Curve is the perfect type of book for Howard Love to write, since he has learned extensively from his winning business ventures. I wasn't familiar with Love's career until recently, but I'm actually surprised now that I hadn't. He's founded or co-founded over 15 startups, and been an angel investor in 50 early stage ventures such as GigaOM, Trulia, and Titan Aerospace (since acquired by Google). At the same time, not everything he's touched has been successful. "I like to say that the price of education goes up substantially after college," Love jokes.

He explains what steps entrepreneurs can take to make success more likely, as well as how to avoid the most common pitfalls we fall victim to. "I've seen it done right and I've seen it done wrong, and it's painful when it's wrong," says Love, talking about building a winning startup. That's something most entrepreneurs are looking for: the ability to save time by getting past common obstacles quickly, and getting to the latter stages of the curve as soon as possible.

If you're a fan of learning but have a hard time with business books that don't include storytelling, you're in luck. Love has a talent for including engaging real world examples - from his direct experience as well as lessons from Apple, Chrysler, and many others - that directly illustrate the points he is making.

My favorite lessons from The Start-Up J Curve:

  • How to know exactly which phase of the curve (Create, Release, Morph, Model, Scale, and Harvest) you're in, so you can take the appropriate actions
  • Ways to hone your original idea into a viable product that has a chance in today's competitive markets
  • How to maximize your chances of business success
  • Learning to focus on what will actually drive the business forward to save you not only time, but capital as well
  • How to handle the inevitable personal challenges that most entrepreneur wind up facing in the first few years

Entrepreneurs are mainly a competitive lot, and the more you're aware of challenges that early stage firms typically face, the greater competitive advantage you have against in your competitive set. The Start-Up J Curve will train you how to get through your early business challenges, and get to the fun terrain that is sustained business growth as soon as possible.

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