Recently, I spent the day shadowing Lauren Thomson Miller, CEO and cofounder of A-76 Technologies, on an adventure to discover what makes her tick so you can figure out what whether you want to be a successful CEO of you or CEO of a startup.
First, let’s examine the difference between an entrepreneur and a startup.
“An entrepreneur is an initiator, a challenger and a driver. Someone that creates something new, either an initiative, a business or a company.”
“A startup is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed.”
- An entrepreneur is a person. A startup is an entity.
- An entrepreneur is the blood. A startup is the body.
- An entrepreneur has become an over-used word associated with the fallacy of overnight success. A startup is a business with employees and/or investors to answer to.
Source: Impromptu answers from a variety of individuals
Keeping those different viewpoints in mind, now you’ll hear Lauren’s answers to questions from budding Rice Alliance students about being the CEO of a startup.
What is it like to be a successful startup CEO?
Every day is different and not always as glamorous as it looks from the outside. There are so many details, logistics and PR opportunities to pay attention to while running a business with limited resources (time, money, and people). You must make decisions quickly and realize that at the end of the day… you are ultimately responsible for the whole team and the one to formulate the answers and milestones for your investors.
Why and how should you start a company?
Why? You don’t want to feel like a cog in the wheel and you want to remove yourself from corporate bureaucracy in order to start making a real difference in your world.
How? Solve a problem you are familiar with and know why your solution is the best, along the benefits. Test and retest to continually refine your solution. Remember that not everyone knows you; create brand awareness and start selling ASAP. Seek feedback and new customers in different industries, so all your eggs aren’t in one basket.
Did you have any fears and what did you do to overcome them?
Yes! There are so many unanswered questions in the pre-launch, launch and growth stages. Keep experimenting while maintaining the big picture vision. Increase your knowledge base by reading, risk taking and learning. Have a support system in place.
Top 10 takeaway lessons you learned as a startup?
- Create a great support team.
- Be slow to hire and quick to hire.
- People will never cease to surprise you.
- Failure is okay, as long as you learn from it.
- Keep up your relationships and build your network.
- Make sure you are excited about what you’re doing.
- Have a willingness to try something new and different.
- Get rid of what you don’t need to figure out what you need.
- Have thick skin and realize that “No.” can be a complete sentence.
- Ask questions and pay attention if you don’t receive a direct answer.
- Daily decisions make a BIG difference.
- Learn from your failures and capitalize on your successes.
- Worst-case scenario is people will say no, but you won’t know if you don’t ask.
Many thanks to Lauren and GenHERation (A Female Empowerment Network) for arranging this empowering Shadow Day!
Share your thoughts below to the following question:
—-> What do you think the difference is between an entrepreneur and a startup?
About A-76 Technologies founders Lauren Thompson Miller and Tim Aramil:
A-76 Technologies was started in 2014 by Lauren Thompson Miller and Tim Aramil while they were students at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business. There, they took a class that would change the course of their lives. In the Technology Entrepreneurship course, they were on a team tasked with developing a business plan for a series of anti-corrosion coatings and lubricants invented by Dr. James Tour, a renowned Rice chemistry professor with 100+ patents to his name and who was named as R&D Magazine’s “Scientist of the Year” in 2013.
Seeing the potential of A-76, Miller and Aramil worked with other team members to develop a business and commercialization plan for A-76. After winning a business plan competition at Rice, the team went on to compete in business plan competitions around the world. At the Rice Business Plan Competition, the largest and richest business plan competition in the world, A-76 Technologies won second place and almost $600,000 in total prizes, more than even the grand prize winner.
In the months after the Rice Business Plan Competition, Miller and Aramil continued to grow A-76. They raised a Series A round of funding and were featured in numerous local and national publications, including the Houston Business Journal, Fortune, and Forbes.
About A-76 Technologies:
A preservation coatings and lubricants manufacturing company, providing anti-corrosion solutions to a wide range of industries, including oil and gas, maritime, transportation, and household applications.