If you want ONE piece of real advice, it’s this: Focus
You’re going to ignore me and learn that lesson yourself the hard way though 😉
No matter how much you think you are focusing you are still not focusing enough. You can still reduce all your plans down by factor of 10.
Do not create construction sites. Anything you start you have to finish.
If you ask yourself, “I have only one day to live, and I need to ship the absolutely most critical thing to validate my startup, what should I do?” My guess is it is not the 200 things that you would like to do.
You need to be more aware of your own mortality. It is likely that you are going to live longer than your startup is, so you don’t internalize how short of a lifespan your baby has. You are default dead since you are not profitable. You have at most a year to live even with VC funding. Focus.
Now if you want some other advice, here you are:
- The market always wins– pick a big market or one that is growing fast
- Start small, but have a big vision of where you would like to go – Facebook started focused on Harvard and is now one of the largest companies in the world. You can have a small focus too
- Listen, especially if you are bright – The smartest people often listen the least. Two ears one mouth. Arrogance will kill you. You’re really dumb, so pay attention and question everything
- Get shit done – don’t intellectualise too much. DO NOT BE PERFECT! A lot of people give shit about Uber and Zenefits being crazy places and not perfect. What do you think it takes to build a big company? You get shit done.
- Ship earlier – You make money from customers. You don’t need know if you’re doing well if your customers pay you. Another six months of making something better does not give you feedback or insight. This is another reason to ship earlier
- VC does not solve problems– If you have problems then taking VC money will only make them worse. You also lose control of your company
- Understand the problem – Do not find a solution or technology and then go looking for a problem to solve with it. You will fail. You have to truly understand the problem that you’re your customers. You also need to know your customers are and talk to them. Get out of the fucking building as Steve Blank says
- Team matters. Start with the right people – Finding amazing cofounders will likely be the biggest pain in the ass when it comes to starting a company. It is rare for this to be easy. Nothing will kill your startup faster then cofounders that do not trust each other
- Learn every day, for the stage you are at – As a workaholic I can tell you that there is never going to be time tomorrow to read that interesting research report that you got. You will find another interesting one the next day and it will pileup into a downloads folder but you will never end up reading. The difference between a newbie founder and an expert is years of reading and learning to get smarter. You’re only smarter tomorrow if you put in that work today. If you are just starting out them you do not need to know how to hire a VP of sales yet. You need to learn how to do basic sales yourself and how to sell the products so that you can teach the VP of sales if you get there… Knowledge is only useful if it helps you when you have a problem, today!
- Your business model and strategy are critical – The difference between an amazing startup and whatever, is this. There are only a few variations of models. You are unlikely to invent something special. The answer is already out there. It’s a matter of figuring out what business model and strategy applies to your startup. It doesn’t matter how much you wave your arms if you are not working in the right direction then you are lost
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