“Starting a company is hard. It’s not easy. It’s not for the faint of heart. There’s a million ways to fail, and only one way to succeed,” said Tom Cox of Coolfire Solutions, as he addressed a room of St. Louis startup entrepreneurs at the February meetup of StartLouis.

There’s a ton of advice out there for would-be entrepreneurs just getting started, and a lot of it’s confusing and contradictory. Cox, on the other hand, offered his audience what he called the Top 1 ways to improve performance of your startup: “Build something great that people love.”

That’s what Cox did at Coolfire Solutions. Coolfire Solutions is a software development shop dedicated to creating simple and functional technology that directly improves the lives of the people who use it. Coolfire makes solutions that are easy for anyone to use, not just techies.

The best way to get people to love your product is to make it very easy to adopt, hard to forget, and impossible to live without, according to Cox. “Don’t write a user manual for your product. If you have to create a user manual, you’ve already failed. Make sure when people pick up your product, they already know how to use it,” said Cox.

Back in 2006 when he founded his company, Cox gathered a great team of technologists and artists, or as he put it, “My goal in 2006: Create a team of people who can change the world and then get out of their way. My goal in 2013: Lead a team of people who can change the world, and then get out of their way.”

Some products the Coolfire team has created are Viewpoint, a simple and easy to use iPad reader for SharePoint; RONIN, a real-time tactical situational awareness app for the military; and Reconn, a mobile SATCOM toolkit that weighs 10lbs.

In addition to advising that St. Louis entrepreneurs create great products that people love, Cox also emphasized how important it is for entrepreneurs to love what they are doing. “Find what you’re passionate about. Come up with a way to make it amazingly better. Figure out how to monetize it. Do it in that order. Don’t skip any steps,” said Cox. Because finding something you believe will make money, and then trying to get passionate about it later, won’t work.

“I’ll leave you with this question,” said Cox to the St. Louis startup community. “What are you going to build? Is it going to be great? Is it going to be something people will love? And if so, why aren’t you already building it?”

 

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