Answer by Quincy Larson:
You could start the next Microsoft with less than $5,000.In 1975, Bill Gates and Paul Allen were just two college students with no funding, no customers, and no product.Then they picked up an issue of Popular Electronics magazine and read about the first consumer-grade computer, the Altair 8800.Gates and Allen felt like they'd missed the boat. Here this computer was, on the cover of one of the biggest magazines of its time. Surely Altair had already developed a programming language, or at least had a team working on one.Now, this is where most of us would give up. We would assume that if an opportunity existed, someone else would have already capitalized on it.But Gates didn't assume. He decided to write to Altair anyway, and offered to develop a version of Basic for them.At first, the Altair executive didn't take him seriously. So Gates lied and said he'd already developed a version of Basic for the Altair. And only then did the executive agree to a meet for a demo.Over the next six weeks, Gates rented time on a public computer, and did his best to emulate the Altair using one of Allen's programs. Gates was essentially flying blind. There was no way to be sure that what he was programming would even work on a real Altair 8800.Time was so tight that Allen wrote the final critical piece of code (the boot loader) during his flight over to the big meeting.At the demo, the Altair executive spooled in their program, which was punched into a paper tape. It didn't work. Allen convinced him to try spooling it in a second time. This time, it miraculously worked.The 4K Basic that they'd written with a crude emulator in just six sleepless weeks – and the boot loader that Allen had written on the airplane over – impressed the executive. He tested it by writing and executing a few simple programs.Then the executive offered Allen a hefty royalty agreement, which would go on to provide Microsoft with the capital they needed to finance the development of DOS.The rest is history.Here's Bill Gates telling the story himself:
Here are some key take-aways from this story that you can immediately apply as an entrepreneur:
- Don't assume. Investigate. If Gates and Allen had trusted their gut – that the Altair team already had a team developing its programming language – they would have missed out on this critical opportunity.
- Tell your prospect what they need to hear. The Altair executive refused to meet with Gates and Allen until theyhim into believing they had a finished product.
- Do whatever you need to do to deliver on your promises. Gates and Allen knew it would all come down to the demo, and – through sheer force of will – figured out a way to make it all work.
You can do this, too.Put on your researcher hat and find your prospect.and build the solution they need.Put on your sales hat and close the deal.