Kleinberg: Only barrier to success is indifference

Tamara Kleinberg, the opening speaker for this year’s Early Stage Symposium, says the only barrier to success for entrepreneurs is indifference.

“I don’t think that our barriers to success as entrepreneurs are competition, time or money. Frankly, if it were those things, only the billion dollar companies would innovate and succeed,” she said to a crowd of several hundred at the Monona Terrace in Madison yesterday morning. “They’re not the ones winning the game — we are.”

Whether it’s the indifference of customers, potential investors, retailers or other important groups, Kleinberg says it should be avoided at all costs.

“We want people to love us or hate us, because I want them to think about us,” she said.

As part of her opening talk, she characterized innovation as a process where improvement takes place over time.

“The truth is, innovation — tweaking, adjusting, editing — is an ongoing process that doesn’t really end, and we have to look at our businesses that way too,” she said.

She also said that when businesses are thinking in terms of “getting ahead of the curve,” they’re already being left behind.

“That’s not the conversation I want to have with us today,” she continued. “The conversation I want us to have is how do we create our own curves, how do we find our own unique selling space, a place that becomes irresistible to customers — we create a chasm in our competition because we created a curve that works for us and is meaningful in the marketplace.”

As an example of this kind of positioning, she points to Dollar Shave Club, a company that set itself apart from the rest of the industry by sending inexpensive razors through the mail so its customers don’t have to shop around and compare features, price and other factors.

“Now, I get a razor delivered to my door every month like clockwork,” she said. “So why did I do that? I don’t want to think that hard about a razor, about shaving — and neither did the hundreds of thousands of other people that have signed up for Dollar Shave Club.”

According to Kleinberg, entrepreneurial events like the Early Stage Symposium are “so critical” for startups regardless of the stage of the company.

“Because this is the place that we get to share and collaborate and partner — maybe get some money — but we also get to support and lift and bring each other together,” she said.

–By Alex Moe