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Are people turning to entrepreneurship too early in their career?

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Oliver Bridge, founder and CEO of Cornerstone sits down with Hot Topics to discuss how to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Move fast and break things. That used to be the mantra of Facebook.

In a tech space where there was fierce competition, it made sense to be the quickest kid on the block, even if the end product wasn’t always perfect.

Facebook tended to make decisions and firefight the ramifications as they arose rather than contemplating all the effects before hand.

The setbacks didn’t matter though as, with the exception of Twitter, Facebook was always the first to the punch and remains undisputed heavyweight champion of social media.

Last year though Zuckerberg turned down the disruptive rhetoric as he (jokingly) announced that Facebook’s new mantra would be, “Move fast with stable infra.”

The new motto reflected Zuckerberg’s awareness that users tended to prefer their new products bug-free and ready to go from day one.

The point is, sometimes the best business decision you can make is to slow it down.

Oliver Bridge, the founder and CEO of Cornerstone, a mail order shaving subscription service, has done just that as he’s progressed from Oxford graduate to full time entrepreneur.

How to succeed as an entrepreneur? Bridge says it’s all about experience.

Despite founding his first business, Biggerfeet.com, when he was just 15, Bridge decided that is was a better decision to complete his education at Oxford University rather than committing to the business full time.

After having moderate success in founding a still popular website, GenderChecker.com while he was still at university, Bridge decided to work in marketing consultancy and investment before becoming a fully fledged entrepreneur with his latest venture, Cornerstone.

Bridge says that the extra time that he took before starting his own business has helped him succeed as an entrepreneur:

“If I look back over my time at university, my time in marketing, my time in the VC world, those skills and those insights I couldn’t have achieved 10% of what I’ve achieved with Cornerstone without that grounding.”

The skills Bridge learnt include how to get the funding that got Cornerstone off the ground.

“Particularly for Cornerstone because it’s an ecommerce brand – working in a marketing consulting world for a couple of years was so useful.”

Young high-grade startups are particularly capital-hungry says Bridge, but entrepreneurs who lack a professional background can struggle to raise funding because the VCs won’t take them seriously:

“If you haven’t got an investment, or finance or professional background, it’s really hard to be credible for investors.”

Because of this, the advice that Bridge gives to young investors to succeed as an entrepreneur preaches a more gradual transition:

“Spend a couple of years in banking, consultancy, investing, something like that just to learn the basics, because otherwise, you may have an amazing idea and lots of energy, but you just won’t be able to feed your hungry business idea with capital.”

With regard to team building, Bridge says that the attributes he looks for are passion and hard work.

“We’re not recruiting people who can build an entire back end API structure on their own. We’re not looking for technical geniuses, we’re looking for people who are really adaptive and smart and learn quick and who want to roll their sleeves up and work hard.”

It’s easier to find people that fit this mandate than it is to find technically skilled engineers says Bridge.

“Those attributes [passion and hard work] are relatively easy to search for. You can have a coffee with someone, you can have a chat with them and ask them some of those probing questions and you can take them for a beer and you can really get to know them quite quickly.”

One thing that has allowed Bridge to succeed as an entrepreneur is taking part in the smaller aspects of the business:

“The logic is that as founder/CEO, as the business grows you should delegate and outsource and keep your head in the really strategic big-picture stuff. Actually I found that occasionally doing the minutiae that doesn’t scale is really important.

“It completely brings you back down to earth, you remember how the business works, and it shows that you care.

The work that Bridge does can be as simple as writing gift labels to bloggers with the marketing team and opening beers at their events, but it all makes a difference.

Taking things slow and doing the little things right has seen Cornerstone grow to around $45k a month in revenues with plans for international expansion in the future, although, based on Bridge’s approach so far, they’ll be taking it one step at a time.

To find out more about how to succeed as an entrepreneur, read another Hot Topics article about creating a good team building philosophy.

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