Professional woman standing in a conference room looking out on to the city through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
From perseverance to funding tips, entrepreneurs share their top pieces of advice for starting up and succeeding in business. — Getty Images/PeopleImages

Starting and growing a company is an exciting dream to pursue. But be warned: Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that nearly half of all startups fail within the first five years.

To avoid becoming one of those failed startups, it helps to take inspiration from the founders of some of America’s hottest startups. Here are 10 pieces of entrepreneurial advice from leaders of companies that started small and took off in a big way.

[Read more: 10 Entrepreneurial Quotes to Keep You Motivated Through Tough Times]

“The product that wins is the one that bridges customers to the future, not the one that requires a giant leap.” – Aaron Levie, Co-founder of Box.net

Many entrepreneurs become too ambitious with their products and aim to solve too many problems. Instead, focus on making one that solves a specific customer problem in a new way. After establishing yourself in the market, you can continue to innovate and improve your existing product.

“People don’t take opportunities because the timing is bad, the financial side unsecure. Too many people are overanalyzing. Sometimes you just have to go for it.” – Michelle Zatlyn, Co-founder of Cloudflare

Many entrepreneurs get stuck in the mindset of waiting for the “right time” to start their business. The truth is, there never will be a perfect time. There will always be reasons not to start your business. You need to find the reason to start it and build from there.

“An entrepreneur is someone who has a vision for something and a want to create.” – David Karp, CEO and Founder of Tumblr

When you’re facing challenges and obstacles bringing your vision to life, remember what motivated you to create your company in the first place. By revisiting these thoughts and feelings, you’ll empower yourself to move forward and get inspiration for more ideas.

“Stay self-funded as long as possible.” – Garrett Camp, Founder of Expa, Uber, and StumbleUpon

While some entrepreneurs aspire to raise investor capital, staying self-funded keeps you in control of your company and relieves you of the pressure investors may bring to the table. Many successful businesses do end up taking outside funding to reach the next level of growth, but try to hold off on asking for investments until it’s absolutely necessary.

[Read more: 3 Scaling Startups Each Share Their Playbook for B2B Growth]

If you want to change this world, this community that we all live in, then get up and do it. And just start something.

Anne Wojcicki, Founder, 23 & Me

“Comfort zone is a nice place, but nothing grows there.” Alexandra Chong, CEO and Founder of Lulu

Many businesses have survived by sticking to what they know. However, if you want to be a thriving market leader, you have to take risks. Stepping out of your comfort zone and taking calculated risks can propel your business to the highest points. Even if the risk doesn’t pay off, it’s an opportunity to grow and learn from your experience.

“Your reputation is more important than your paycheck, and your integrity is worth more than your career.” – Ryan Freitas, Co-founder of About.me

No matter how competitive your field is, you need to lead with integrity and be respected among your peers. You never know when competitors become partners and employees become employers.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates, Founder and former CEO of Microsoft

You can’t please every single customer every single time, so use negative feedback as a learning opportunity. Have a discussion about the customer’s issues with the company or your products or service to see where you can improve and prevent further complaints.

“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” – Steve Jobs, Co-founder and CEO of Apple

It’s easy to be a leader in the face of massive success and growth. What determines true leadership is how you act in times of adversity. Every startup will be confronted with challenges. How a leader gets their team through these challenges is a testimony to who they are and how successful they can be.

“There’s nothing wrong with staying small. You can do big things with a small team.” – Jason Fried, Founder and CEO of Basecamp

Don’t be intimidated by the size of other startups. A small team can accomplish just as much, so long as they’re the right team. Instead of focusing on growing your company, surround yourself with the right people who understand your startup’s mission and how to accomplish it.

“If you want to change this world, this community that we all live in, then get up and do it. And just start something.” – Anne Wojcicki, Founder of 23 & Me

The best entrepreneurial intentions mean nothing if you’re not taking tangible actions to accomplish them. Instead of overthinking or making excuses not to do something, just take the first small step. No matter the result, taking any step will move you closer to your goal.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published July 22, 2022