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Big Omaha – Dan Martell: ‘I realized it’s not about not failing. It’s about not dying.’

Dan Martell outlines the 5 Unconventional Steps he took en route from New Brunswick, Canada to San Francisco. Photo by Malone & Company from Silicon Prairie News on Flickr

Dan Martell lives and breathes entrepreneurship. In fact, Martell is pretty sure his parents believe he is un-hirable. Martell is the co-founder of Flowtown, a serial angel investor and on the board of Startup Weekend. As Dan says, “If you’re an entrepreneur, I’m your biggest fan.” He’s also very proud to be Canadian.

The topic of Martell’s talk was “5 Unconventional Steps to Entrepreneurship.” Here are some highlights:

Martell started his talk with a simple question. “Who wants to learn how to succeed at everything you do in life?” Talk about a hook to get an audience to start listening. Martell starts to share his 5 Unconventional Steps:

1. Don’t listen to your parents

Martell confessed that as a new entrepreneur he would always call his dad for advice. But over time he realized he needed to get advice and learn from other people. “Listen to the people that have been there and succeeded in entrepreneurship,” Martell said. “Get advice from them.”

2. Embrace laziness

One of the things Martell emphasized is that entrepreneurs are a different breed. Where they work, how they work and why they work is different. Martell wants entrepreneurs to embrace that difference and use it as an asset. 

3. Choose your friends carefully

“You need to be prepared for the entrepreneurial pendulum. You swing from exclamation mark to question mark. This can happen on a daily basis,” Martell said. To be prepared for this roller coaster and to be able to ride the ups and downs, you need to surround yourself with the right people. Martell encouraged the audience to ask themselves, “Who are the people that align with the things you want to do in your life? Spend time with those people.”

4. Hustle to help

Martell shared a story of how he met Matthew Rosenberg of Fast Society at SXSW. Rosenberg asked for five minutes of Martell’s time. He gave it to him, and down the road Rosenberg made an introduction for Martell that brought major business to Flowtown. “I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but I know it will pay off,” Martell said.

5. Failure is part of the process

“I realized it’s not about not failing. It’s about not dying,” Martell joked. He suggested that failure is expected with entrepreneurship, but if you can survive and weather the storm you’re off to a good start. Martell shared a story of how a recent decision about Facebook data use affected his business model at Flowtown. “It was like building houses and you can no longer buy wood. It changed everything,” Martell said. To adjust, Martell and his co-founder sat down and started to brainstorm. “We drew three ideas on a whiteboard and said let’s go,” Martell explained.

As an audience member, I felt like Martell’s talk was very honest and very sincere. His talk wasn’t full of jargon or superlatives, but simple and honest stories of both his successes and failures. Martell is a great inspiration for entrepreneurs and a great person to represent the title of entrepreneur.

Thanks for coming to Omaha, Dan!

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