Priceless advice from 50 of the world’s top entrepreneurs

1. Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Do something you’re very passionate about and don’t try to chase what is kind of the hot passion of the day.

2. Steve Jobs, Apple

People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing and it’s totally true and the reason is because it’s so hard, that if you don’t, any rational person would give up. It’s really hard. And you have to do it over a sustained period of time. So if you don’t love it, if you’re not having fun doing it, you don’t really love it, you’re going to give up.

3. Pierre Omidyar, eBay

So just go and do it, try, learn from it, you’ll fail at some things, that’s a learning experience that you need so that you can take that on to the next experience. And don’t let people who you may respect and who you believe know what they’re talking about, don’t let them tell you it can’t be done. Because often they will tell you it can’t be done and it’s just because they don’t have the courage to try it.

4. Michael Dell, Dell

I think people that look for great ideas to make money aren’t nearly as successful as those who say, “Okay, what do I really love to do? What am I excited about? What I know something about? What’s interesting and compelling?”

5. Sergey Brin, Google

It’s very rewarding when you work on something you think is going to make a very big difference and yes, it’s a little bit harder, but I think the passion that one might bring with it brings so much more energy to that, that you’re more likely to succeed.

6. Biz Stone, Twitter

You have to have an emotional investment in what you’re doing. If you don’t love what you’re doing, failure is pretty much guaranteed. Success is not guaranteed by any means, but failure is much more likely, if you don’t love what you’re doing.

7. Gary Vaynerchuk, Wine Library

If you know exactly what you want to be, you need to spend as much time with people that are actually that already.

8. Daniel Ek, Spotify

One of the things that I do is I question a lot of things. And you can do that in a good way and in a bad way, but hopefully if you try to get people to motivate why they’re doing something and their way of thinking, the worst thing you can end up with is a situation where you get told, “Well, this is the way it’s always been.” That’s the worst ever, that’s a non-answer. Instead, ask yourself, “Given everything we have today, is there a way we can make this better?”

9. Kevin Rose, Digg

And so, when we’re coming up with ideas, we always ask ourselves, “What kind of new market is this creating?” and then also, “What part of my day and what problem is it solving?” And so I’ve gone as far as taking an entire catalogue of my day from the moment I open my eyes and writing down every single thing I do and then asking myself, “Is there something here?”

10. James Altucher, Stockpickr

If you’re not coming up with 10 ideas a day… that’s why I have this thing, if I’m not coming up, if I’m not filling up this page every single day, then my idea muscle will atrophy. And I started this in 2001 and I still do it every single day. You have to come up with ideas every single day or the idea muscle atrophies. The good news is, after about six months of doing that you’re like a machine, people get surprised at how many ideas you could just have anywhere.

11. Robert Greene, Mastery

Understand that naturally nobody is interested in your idea, the world couldn’t care less and you have to persuade them and you have to show that you’re the one person out there that can do it.

12. Guy Kawasaki, Apple

When it comes to changing the world, what I’ve learned from Steve Jobs is if you believe in a Macintosh, if you believe in iPhone, iPod, iPad, if you believe enough, then you will see it. Because other people will believe in it, other people will create software, other people will create products. So you need to foster the belief in what you are dreaming so that it becomes a reality, which is very different than saying, “I don’t expect anybody to believe it until I see it.” You need people to believe it before they can see it.

13. Steve Wozniak, Apple

Don’t necessarily think that you have to have the homerun and the huge Apple computer on your first start. I’ve spent a long time in my life with skills, just building little devices for fun, for fun is one of the key things. Because that drives you to think and think and think and make it better and better and better than you ever would if you were doing it for a company. Build things first for yourself, that you would want.

14. Mark Cuban, Cyber Dust

For somebody aspiring to take things to the next level or to even surpass their wildest dreams, there’s always going to have to be an element of luck, but I think more important is putting yourself in a business that can be ubiquitous, that really doesn’t have limits. Because otherwise there’s always going to be a grind to it, but if it can’t be something that you can visualize every business using or every consumer using, it’s going to be tough to scale it to be big enough or to have the perceived value.

15. Sam Altman, Y Combinator

You want an idea about what you can say, I know it sounds like a bad idea, but here’s specifically why it’s actually a great one. You want to sound crazy, but you want to actually be right.

16. Tony Fadell, Nest

Because when you’re trying to differentiate, when you’re trying to do something different, there’s going to be that gut moment, that gut sense, “Is this right? Is this not right?” If you’re not having doubt, you’re not pushing the boundaries far enough.

17. Danae Ringelmann, Indiegogo

Don’t think about, “How do I get big fast?” That will happen if you actually build something super meaningful and super important. So don’t think about what is the quickest way to success, think about what is the best way to building something important, that the world really needs.

18. Simon Sinek, Start With Why

This little idea explains why some organizations and some leaders are able to inspire where others aren’t. Let me define the terms really quickly. Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows what they do, 100%. Some know how they do it, whether you call it your differentiated value proposition or your proprietary process or a USP. But very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by why I don’t mean to make a profit, that’s a result, it’s always a result. By why I mean what’s your purpose, what’s your cause, what’s your belief? Why does your organization exist?

19. Seth Godin, Tribes

So when we see a kid with a lemonade stand it’s different than when we see a vending machine selling lemonade, even if it’s exactly the same product. Because the story around it is what people are paying for. So when I meet small business people all I ask them is not what’s their balance sheet, but what’s their story. Why should I pick you? Why do I care about what you’re doing? And if you start giving me all this inside baseball statistics about why you’re 2% better than some other competitor, I’m already glazed over, because that’s not part of the way I see the world.

20. Evan Williams, Blogger, Twitter, Medium

That I have to want this to exist in the world. So it’s a similar rule, just say, “If this was successful and I was not involved, I got no money off of it or it wasn’t what I wanted to do well.” And that’s a great check I think to know if you really feel good about the idea and can be passionate about it.

21. Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn

One of the things I advice entrepreneurs to do is when you have an idea, a classic entrepreneurial impulse is to hold the idea close to you and not go tell people, because oh, the idea is so special. That’s almost always a mistake, because your actual, real competitive advantage is not that you have this idea that you have locked away in your closet, which may or may not be accurate and you have no idea which it is. Your actual competitive advantage is if you’re assembling the intelligence around “Does this idea work? What is the right team? What is the right learning?” and we’re essentially in motion.

22. Jack Dorsey, Twitter, Square

The hardest thing to do is start. You have all these ideas and everyone has an idea, but it’s really about executing the idea and building the idea and attracting other people to help you work on the idea. That is the biggest challenge. But the way to begin is to get the idea out of your head, draw it out, talk about it, program it if you’re a programmer or make it if you’re building something.

23. Kevin Systrom, Instagram

You don’t have to be the best, but you have to be dangerous. You have to learn just enough to be dangerous to build an idea, concept it and show it to the world and then it turns out there are lots of other people, including all 170 employees that work at Instagram, who are much better at doing all that stuff than I am. But you need to find people who can be drawn to the idea that you build and then they end up taking it and making it even better.

24. Drew Houston, DropBox

One way to conceptualize what makes a good product, good engineering is part of it, good design is part of it, but really it’s, one way I think about at least, is maximizing the probability that someone shows up at the front door of your store, your website or whatever it is and ends up with a solved problem.

Constantly seek criticism. A well thought out critique of whatever you’re doing is as viable as gold.

25. Brian Chesky, Airbnb

And oftentimes the best methodology is to start with the perfect experience for just one person, get that right and then figure out how to scale something great instead of scaling something not so great and then trying to improve it, that’s really hard to do.

26. Peter Thiel, PayPal

And so I think when you are starting a new business, you don’t want to go after giant markets, you want to go after small markets and you want to take over those markets quickly.

27. Elon Musk, Tesla, SpaceX

Constantly seek criticism. A well thought out critique of whatever you’re doing is as viable as gold and you should seek that from everyone you can, but particularly your friends.

28. Alan Schaaf, Imgur

If you’re not utilizing an online community, then you’re at a disadvantage to those who are. You can be asking online communities what they think about your ideas or if they have any advice with what you’re working on. Not only will you hear from people who are passionate about the subject, but you’ll be hearing from people all around the world, each with their own experiences and stories that can help you.

29. Chris Sacca, Baller Investor

There are a lot of people from whom we can learn a lot and I think the one piece of advice, don’t underestimate anyone you come across, whether they are a blue collar worker waiting for the bus or they’re the server or bar tender at a restaurant or they’re a lower ranking employee. The smartest leaders that I have ever seen have always gone around the room and asked for everybody’s opinion.

30. Paul Graham, Y Combinator

Most start-ups that fail do it ultimately because they did not make something that people wanted. They made something that they thought people would want, but they were either in denial about it, about whether it was actually any good, or somebody else came along and made something that people wanted even more.

31. Dennis Crowley, Foursquare

The best piece of advice that we’ve figured out as we’ve been building Foursquare is not to let other people distract what you’re doing. There’s always haters that say, “Your idea is stupid, this idea is never going to work, don’t even bother doing that because someone else is going to do it before you.” And if we listened to all that feedback that we were getting, all that negative feedback, we would never have built things, we would never have prototyped things. That’s how we really got to where we are, we saw things that we wanted to build and we just went out and built them. And it turns out when you build stuff that you like to use, there’s a good chance that there are thousands of other people that want to use it too.

32. Eric Ries, The Lean Startup

It’s not just about doing focus groups, it’s not just about double checking your vision, it really is about integrating this concept of testing our ideas rigorously throughout the product development process, throughout the marketing process, even as we scale on.

33. Leah Busque, TaskRabbit

What you really need to do is think about what is the smallest possible test that I can run for this idea, for this concept, for this theory, get it out there and get customers using it. Because your customers are going to be the ones to tell you if it’s really working or not.

34. Anthony Casalena, Squarespace

There’s this expectation that you have to have in your mind, this sort of, “I’m going to change the world, make a dent in the universe” kind of ambition. But it’s actually okay early on to just kind of solve small problems in layers until you actually get to a point where you have the capacity to do that.

35. Alexis Ohanian, Reddit, Hipmunk

What this all comes down to is doing something exceptional for your users, whether it’s in community, whether it’s in connection or whether it’s in design. This is our big advantage as a startup, is that we can actually get away with doing this. We can make this the core part of why we’re doing business.

36. Jason Fried, Basecamp

I think you should be spending your money on teaching and sharing, and so that might mean hiring a writer perhaps instead of a marketing person. And start writing and start getting people to listen to what you’re saying. You can’t talk about yourself all the time, because no one’s going to come back for that, but you have to talk about things that are relevant to your industry or ideas that you have and start to build that audience up.

37. Palmer Luckey, Oculus Rift

I do think that one thing that’s important is especially if you’re a founder or a technical founder is to realise that you can’t do everything and even if you can you shouldn’t.

38. Kamal Ravikant, AngelList

You should find a great partner, no matter what it is that you’re doing, and you should look for someone who has very high intelligence, very high energy and very high integrity. And you need all three of those, you can’t compromise on any one of them, otherwise you’ll end up with either someone who’s not smart, which does you no good, or with someone who’s not hard working, which also does you no good, or the worst case is you end up with a smart, hard working crook, who ends up working against your interests. And integrity is something that takes a lot of time to spend with someone to figure out.

39. Ben Silbermann, Pinterest

The most important thing when you’re working with people really is that you guys line up on what your goals are. That sounds really basic, but you can totally… you can be fine, you can build a small business that makes money and you don’t have to go to an office every day or you can want to build a huge company, you can want to build Google, but I think you have to really, really align on that.

40. Tony Hsieh, Zappos

A lot of corporations have, they might call them core values or guiding principles or so on, but the problem is usually they’re very lofty sounding, they kind of read like a press release the marketing department put out, they sound just like their competitors and maybe you learn about it on Day 1 of your job and then it becomes this meaningless plaque on the lobby wall. Well, we wanted to come up with committable core values, and by committable meaning we’re willing to hire or fire people based on those values completely independent of their actual job performance.

41. Andrew Mason, Groupon

The definition of values is they’re the behaviours or principles that you religiously adhere to within your company. And when I say religious I mean that no amount of data will sway you from those principles. And the degree to which you have the courage to maintain your conviction around those ideas is the degree to which you’re going to be successful over the long term.

42. Richard Branson, Virgin

A company is simply a group of people and as a leader of people you have to be a great listener, you have to be a great motivator, you have to be very good at praising and looking for the best in people. People are no different from flowers, if you water flowers, they flourish, if you praise people, they flourish. And that’s a critical attribute of a leader.

43. Andrew Ljung, Soundcloud

I half-jokingly with a lot of people said that my job is basically to be the assistant for the rest of the company. My job is to make sure that you have what you need, you have everything you need to kick ass, that’s my job. If you don’t have that, then let me know, because I’m not doing my job.

44. Justin Kan, Justin.tv

There are a lot of things that are outside of your control, a lot of external circumstances will determine the success of your idea, whether the market timing is right for this kind of service or whether the economy is right for your kind of service or whether we meet the right people who will finance our company. Many, many external circumstances are outside of your control and will affect the outcome and you have to be okay with that.

45. Jessica Livingston, Y Combinator

Another quality that I think is important is being flexible-minded or open minded. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a vision for your idea or your product, but you need to be open for changes.

46. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

So many things go wrong when you’re starting a company and often I think people ask, “What mistakes should you avoid making?” And my answer to that question is, “Don’t even bother trying to avoid mistakes, because you’re going to make tons of mistakes and the important thing is actually learning quickly from whatever mistakes you make and not giving up.” There are things in every single year of Facebook’s existence that could have killed us or made it so that it just seemed like moving forward and making a lot of progress just seemed intractable, but you just kind of bounce back and you learn and nothing is impossible, you just have to kind of keep running through the walls.

47. Marc Andreessen, Andreessen Horowitz

The two things we really zero in on people are, they sound simple, not very difficult, courage and genius. Courage is the one we talk about a lot, because it’s the one that people can learn. Courage, which is to say not giving up in the face of adversity, just being absolutely determined to succeed, it’s something that you can force yourself to do, it can be very painful, but you can force yourself to do it. The genius part, it’s a little bit hard to force yourself to do. Courage without genius might not get you to where you need to go, but genius without courage almost certainly won’t.

48. Dustin Moskovitz, Facebook

I think the reality is just not quite so glamorous, there is an ugly side to being an entrepreneur and also just more importantly what you’re actually spending your time on is just a lot of hard work. You’re basically just sitting at your desk, heads down, focused, answering customer support e-mails, doing sales, figuring out hard engineering problems. So it’s really important that you kind of like go in with eyes wide open.

49. Tim Ferriss, The 4 Hour Work Week

Optimism has a place, but I think even more so for the first time entrepreneur you need to be pragmatically pessimistic. What I mean by that is you need to define all of the worst case scenarios in terms of financial loss, time loss, etcetera, look at what you’ll learn if that happens and accept and come to terms with that before you ever start. If you don’t do that, then you go straight into battling the world, trying to conquer the world with rose coloured glasses on and the first time you hit a major hiccup you’re going to become really demoralised and you will quit.

50. Emmet Shear, Twitch

If you don’t love it, you won’t make it through the long period of pain that is inevitable. So make sure that you take care of yourself during the process, make sure that you take care of your mental health, your physical health while you’re doing it, because it’s a long road.