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Entrepreneurs tend to be people with tons of ideas, and lots of energy and enthusiasm for those ideas. That’s all well and good, but once you start a business, you really need to commit to one idea and see it through.

Of course it’s possible for a startup founder to work on more than one thing at a time, but in most cases that’s not ideal. It’s challenging enough to get a new business off the ground even when you’re giving it all of your attention. So if you’re actually the operator of a startup, the optimal strategy is to crush it with focus.

At the same time, though, be sure to broaden your view by exposing yourself to other businesses. Get involved with one or two other startups as a board member, advisor or mentor. This will help you extend your network and build relationships with other CEOs that could come in handy in the future. Even more important, you’ll gain a much wider perspective on fundraising, staffing challenges, and business models than you could ever get from just running your own company.

Rajat Bhargava is a great example of an entrepreneur who is successfully involved in multiple businesses. Raj is the President, Chairman and CEO of StillSecure, he serves on the board of MobileDay, and he has co-founded several other startups and taken them public. (Disclosure: I’m an investor in MobileDay.) He’s an active angel investor, and he continues to serve as chairman for some of the companies he started and recruited a team to operate. While this is a viable strategy, the key is that he’s not operating all of these businesses — he’s more like an investor with leverage. Raj is also at a place in his career where he can make all of this work.

If you’re just getting started as an entrepreneur, focus hard on one thing and be the best in the world at it. But don’t let your focus turn to tunnel vision. Remember to expose yourself to the broader world around you as well.


This post recently appeared on The Accelerators at the Wall Street Journal, where startup mentors discuss strategies and challenges of creating a new business.

David Cohen
(@davidcohen) Co-founder & Co-CEO of Techstars, previously founder of several technology companies. David is an active startup advocate, advisor, board member, and technology advisor who comments on these topics on his blog at DavidGCohen.com



  • 514626296

    This is a great reminder that focus and doing one thing really well is so critical to startups, especially early on! Thanks for sharing this David!

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  • 100001729955652

    Nice advice! Thanks!

  • 324259511030655

    Great advice, particularly about getting involved in other companies as a mentor, Board member or advisor to keep a broad view, while staying insanely focused on one idea for your startup. A CEO trying to run 3 or 4 businesses will likely end up running none.