An Afternoon With Kevin Ryan

Patrick Daniel (2)
Patrick Daniel

Go do a start-up — it is really fun,” Kevin said. “Only join a company if you would invest in it.”

If you live in the world of fashion, you will know Gilt Groupe. If you live in the world of advertising, you will know Double Click. If you are in the world of business, you will know Business Insider.

Kevin founded and built all of these companies. When he visited the HBS last semester, he reminded students that an idea is only as good as your ability to execute it.

Here are the five short key insights from his lecture:

  1. It’s about execution
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An idea is great, but what matters is how well the idea is executed. “A four month head start is not really an advantage,” he said.  In the future, the Internet will disrupt every industry. Google or Facebook did not reinvent the wheel. You don’t have to. Find something that already exists and make it better, he suggested.

  1. It’s about people

Money follows the people. Your job as CEO is to find and recruit the best people.

  1. It’s about simplicity

Kevin’s suggestion: have an idea that is simple, better yet one that nobody is pursuing. Focus on an area that is neglected. “You want to find a $10 billion sector that people are not good at,” he said. Don’t add features. Pick a neutral name for your venture. Keep it simple, stupid.

  1. It’s about opportunities

People worry about running out of ideas. But things are changing constantly. Take advantage of those shifts. Be willing to try new things. Aim high, and have a big goal. This, in turn, will motivate others to join your venture. And by pursuing big opportunities and goals you will have an easier time raising capital.

  1. It’s about passion
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“Why do people fall behind?” Kevin asked. They were not really into it. They were not doing it for fun. Focus on what you love. You can fake it for a while. If you don’t love what you do, you will fall behind. The rat race amongst competitive people will not matter twenty years from now.