10 things every entrepreneur needs to try

April 5, 2011

– Neil Patel is a serial entrepreneur who blogs about business at Quick Sprout and is the co-founder of KISSmetrics. This article originally appeared here. The views expressed are his own. –

Being an entrepreneur obviously isn’t easy, which is why most people shy away from trying to be one. Before you throw out the idea of becoming an entrepreneur, make sure you check out the following free services and programs:

Microsoft Biz Spark

Whether you love or hate Microsoft, as an entrepreneur, you’ll need their software. For example, I always find myself using Excel, Word and PowerPoint. There really isn’t a day that goes by in which I’m not using one of those applications.

In the beginning, you may not buy all of the Microsoft products you need as money will probably be a bit tight, but luckily for you, Microsoft gives all entrepreneurs their software for free through their BizSpark program. There aren’t any strings attached and they literally just hand you all the software you need for free. They even let you use their cloud program, Azure, for free for 750 hours.

The best part about BizSpark is that once you get your startup launched, through their media relationships with sites like Mashable and Techmeme, they’ll help you get your business out to millions of people at no cost.


One of the main reasons why entrepreneurs fail is due to a lack of experience. One way you can try to solve this is by attending conferences, talking with other entrepreneurs, and even reading/listening to books.

One of the easiest ways to get a head start is to join a mentorship program like TechStars that will not only provide you with seasoned entrepreneurs to mentor you on a daily basis, but will also give you money for joining the program and help you raise venture capital.

Now granted, there is a catch – they take a small percentage of your business. But in the end, it’s worth it if you’re a first-time entrepreneur.

In addition to TechStars there are a few other programs that offer the same perks such as Y Combinator and the Founder Institute.

Startup Weekend

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be an entrepreneur? One program that gives you a quick glimpse of what it’s like is Startup Weekend.

All around the world for one weekend entrepreneurs connect together to build and launch companies over two days. By joining a Startup Weekend in your neighborhood you’ll learn:

  1. How to pitch your business idea
  2. How to work in teams
  3. How to create a minimal viable product

During that weekend you’ll have fun and at the same time learn a lot about entrepreneurship.

SF Ruby Workshops

Whether you want to be a computer programmer or not, it’s something that you need to have a basic understanding of. Although it’s not an easy thing to pick up, you don’t have to go to school for years to become a good programmer.

Through programs like SF Ruby Workshops you can learn about programming for free and hopefully get good over time with some practice.

So, if you’re one of those entrepreneurs who are trying to figure out how to learn programming, don’t waste your time by going back to college, but instead, sign up for free programming workshops.

Angel List

The biggest reason that companies fail in the first 5 years of starting up is because they lack capital. In the past, in order to raise money from angel investors or venture capitalists, you would have to travel to the investor, pitch them at their office, and wait anxiously to hear back from them.

Although that process still takes place today, there’s a new program that makes fund raising a lot easier. It’s called Angel List. On one website, you can list out what your company does, how much money you are looking to raise and see which investors are interested in giving you money.

However, before you take money from investors, you may want to first get to know them and find out how they can help you. Getting big-name investors is great, but it’s smarter to get strategic investors that can help grow your business.

SBA Grants

If you own and operate a company within the United States, you don’t have to hit up venture capitalists or go to the bank to get money. The Small Business Administration provides grants to businesses… you just have to apply.

You’ll be surprised at how much free money you can get by just applying for business grants. I know it takes work and you won’t get money from all of the grants you apply for, but there is a good chance you’ll get something.

If you aren’t willing to take the time, energy, and effort by applying for free money, don’t waste your time as a entrepreneur as that’s probably one of the easier tasks you’ll face.

Founder Dating

The one thing you should never do is try to run a business by yourself. You should always have a business partner. That’s because when you’re starting out, there will be way too much work for one person to do and you won’t have enough money to hire employees.

Through Founder Dating you can potentially find your perfect business partner. If you aren’t familiar with how it works, just think about speed dating. You meet a lot of people in a given hour and then you start to engage in detailed conversations with the matches you are potentially interested in.

If you happen to meet your ideal match within a few hours, don’t rush into partnerships. I have had multiple business partners over the years and the one thing I learned is that you need to really know and trust someone before you seal the deal. Just think of it as a marriage that can’t be easily gotten out of.

Founders Card

Do you want the “black” American Express (Centurion) credit card? Well unless you spend $250,000 a year, you won’t qualify for it. And even if you do, the fees typically aren’t worth the perks.

But one card that has great perks for entrepreneurs is the Founders Card. It gives discounts on plane tickets, hotels, and other things that you’ll need when you travel.


I’ve always been a big believer that networking is the key to success. One place where you can network with like-minded entrepreneurs for free is BarCamp.

Think of them as a modern version of a business networking event that has some sponsors, free food, beer and people who vote on what they are going to discuss.

The best part about BarCamp is that you don’t have to travel far to attend one. If there isn’t one going on in your city and you want to put one on, all you have to do is go to the BarCamp site and post how you are throwing one. And because their site gets decent traffic volumes, the word will spread and you’ll have attendees.

Help a Reporter Out

Getting your company out there in the mainstream media doesn’t have to be costly. Yes good PR firms may charge $10,000 if not $20,000 a month, but you can always get in the mainstream media by yourself.

Through Help a Reporter Out (HARO), you’ll get a daily email with all of the stories journalists need help with. And if you can provide any insights, all you have to do is email them and they will interview you. If they like what you have to say, they’ll include it in their magazine or newspaper.

If you haven’t tried HARO out, you should. It works well and I can tell you from experience because I have been using it for years. Through it, I have been mentioned in places like the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.


If you are a first time entrepreneur, stop stressing yourself out on the small stuff. There are services, programs and people out there who will help you out for free. You just have to find the ones that are the right fit for you.

Now even if you sign up for all of the services and programs I mentioned above it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be successful, it just helps increase your odds of succeeding.

Do you know of any other things that entrepreneurs should try?

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Thanks for sharing. This was a great post about entrepreneurs. Looking forward to reading your blog in the future.

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