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Catalina Daniels & James Sherman: Smart Startups


Catalina Daniels & James Sherman

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Kelly spends time with Catalina Daniels and James Sherman, two entrepreneurs who met at Harvard Business School and have written a new book: “Smart Startups: What Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know.”

You both went to Harvard Business School but this book is not about what your learned in school, right?

“The reason for writing the book stems from an interesting data point where we learned that about 70% of seeded startups startups fail. Actually, if you want to count all startups - those that don't receive seed funding - the number's even higher: about 90%. So, we really just wanted to improve the odds for success in launching a business and both Catalina and I had been entrepreneurs. I've been a serial entrepreneur. I think we had a lot of wisdom to impart. And, in particular, we wanted to figure out ways of imparting to people what they maybe didn't learn in business school what they may have learned the hard way; what they wish they had known prior to starting a business.”

We’ve been embedded for the last few years at Harvard in the business school to help students craft and tell their stories – and that’s a big part of this book: the importance of storytelling.

"For us as angel investors, we see a lot of pictures from startups and what is surprising is that a lot of them focus on the content, but not enough on the storytelling. And we heard from some entrepreneurs we interviewed how important it is to work on your storytelling, to convince investors, to convince your team to get on board, to convince your first client. I'm so happy to hear that Harvard business works with people like you at Second City to basically help students get better at improvisation and at making sure they say the right thing at the right time and surprise people.”

Can you tell us some of the characteristics that make up an entrepreneur?

“Sure. We have actually a chapter where we talk about whether you are a born entrepreneur. And the challenge is that one has to really look and see what the key ingredients are for being a successful entrepreneur. One is a passion to create. That is essential. You need to have a creativity, a passion of some sort that you want to create. You want to do something new and different. Not everyone's like that, frankly. But you need that. That's part and parcel of being an entrepreneur. Second, you need to have an extraordinary amount of resilience. Resilience is really crucial. You need resilience. That's going to carry you through the very difficult periods of a startup. You have so many ups and downs, the roller coaster experience, and I think that these are really fundamental aspects that make up the psyche, if you will, of an entrepreneur.”

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