6 Tips for Striking Out on Your Own

designerfund4 An unusual thing, advice. Seldom do we hear any tips that we haven’t thought of ourselves. Yet when people who have clearly “made it” offer up a morsel of their experience, we cling to it not so much for the information, but because its giver proves that “making it” can be done.

The first volume in the “Designer Founders” book series features startup advice from a number of those who’ve clearly made it. (The series is a product of the Designer Fund angel investing entity founded in 2011.)

designerfund2Here are six core tips gathered from the book by the Designer Fund’s Enrique Allen for FastCoDesign.com. While not all are about design, these tips are fundamental to striking out on your own.

1. Get Your Feet Wet with Side Projects
That’s what Evan Sharp did with Pinterest, which began life as one of the freelance design projects he took on to pay for his time at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture.

2. Ramp up Incrementally
Rashmi Sinha built a research tool called MindCanvas after studying human-computer interaction at UC-Berkeley. That gave her just enough money to tackle something a little more ambitious: the presentation-sharing platform Slideshare, recently acquired by LinkedIn for $100 million.

designerfund13. Design is about more than making things attractive
“It’s not to put a nice dumb box around whatever is inside,” says Fuseproject Founder Yves Béhar. “Design should deliver the whole ecosystem.” Béhar has partnered with companies to design products such as the Jawbone headset.

4. Create Opportunities by Proving Yourself
Christina Brodbeck, co-founder of relationship site theicebreak, moved to Silicon Valley without a job and hit the ground running. She began her startup career while serving a fellowship as a user interface (UI) designer at NASA. From there she followed up one opportunity after the other, in the process becoming YouTube’s first UI designer, where she designed the site’s first mobile app.

5. Partner with Someone Who Complements You
Behance founders Scott Belsky and Matias Corea are the poster children for this. Corea studied design and Belsky went to business school. Alone, neither could have gotten the site off the ground and made it appeal to the creatives around the world who call it their online home. Adobe recently snapped up Behance for a rumored $150 million.

designerfund36. Love it or Leave it
Find something you really love to do, because the statistics for startups are firmly against you, Belsky warns. If your project only leaves you fretting over vacations you can no longer afford, this project is not for you.

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