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Though venture capitalist Michael Moritz works with companies that he anticipates will be far larger than go-it-alone enterprises, he expresses the same viewpoint: a successful startup must have a laserlike focus on what it hopes to achieve. In 2000, he wrote, in a special issue of Newsweek:

One test we often apply to a new business is the ease with which it can be explained. If someone is able to summarize his company’s plan on the back of a business card, it usually means that he will be able to describe its purpose to employees, customers and shareholders. A proposition that takes a paragraph to describe or 10 minutes to explain is dicier. One thing I remember from 1988, when we provided the start-up financing for Cisco Systems, was the stunning clarity with which the company’s founders, Sandy Lerner and Len Bozak, were able to explain their business, The entire mission was summed up in three words: “Cisco networks networks.”. . . It was a description that has stood the test of time.


One central message of this book is that the success of a go-it-alone enterprise depends on the owner’s ability to focus his or her skills in succeeding at a small number of critical areas. As you look at a business idea, you want to ask yourself the following question: What are the one to three things that are going to determine whether I succeed here? The obvious follow-up questions are Do I have the essential expertise to execute well within this focus? and If not, can I acquire it?

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GO IT ALONE! Copyright 2004 by Bruce Judson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.