The One Thing Your Startup Really Needs to Succeed by Gene Marks, president of The Marks Group consulting firm Your startup is not special. You are not going to get the big bucks from investors. You did not go to Stanford and are not located in Silicon Valley. You have no track record of running a business, and your business plan is based on made-up numbers and hoped-for assumptions. All you have is a good idea - and you know that history is littered with failed startups that were born of good ideas. You suddenly realize that no more paychecks are coming in. Your friends who cheered you on when you launched your startup have disappeared into their own problems. No one is knocking on your door or offering help. You start to realize that people promise things and then don't deliver. You don't feel like you're accomplishing anything. You look around and find that there are many others like you -- people dreaming of business success. And you know that most will fail. Will you? Don't panic. Your startup can still succeed. But it will depend on one thing and one thing only. Can you guess what? Customers! Really? Doesn't this sound obvious? It is obvious. And yet, I meet so many "entrepreneurs" that get so wrapped up in being an "entrepreneur" and monkeying around with their spreadsheets and pontificating about their grand plans that they forget that in the end they're supposed to be running a business. And a business simply needs customers. Your startup will likely need one or two years to be profitable. During that time you must bring in work. That means that while you're building your product, you're also hiring yourself out as an engineer at an hourly rate. Or while you're developing that new killer application, you're doing some other programming work on the side. Or while you get that shop set up, you're selling your products on eBay or Craigslist. You may lose some money, but you will learn and build some history. Potential investors and lenders don't want stories, they want results. They're interested in an existing, viable business that needs their help to grow. They want to see real financial statements showing revenues from live customers that you're turning into a future model rather than fictional plans and ideas based on assumptions. I'm sure your idea is good. And I'm sure your plans are fine. Just don't spend too much time obsessing over them. Build a business -- go out and get some customers with what you have!