Anand Sanwal, CEO/Founder, CB Insights (NYC)

The Unicorn

CB Insights is a National Science Foundation-backed company that uses data to provide VCs, corporate strategy, M&A teams and business development professionals with predictive intelligence on emerging companies and disruptive technology trends.

We’re completely revenue-funded (aka bootstrapped) and will be 50 people by year end 2015.

The Wound

I’ve made lots of mistakes. I chronicled some of my personal screwups as a startup CEO here on the CB Insights blog.

As a company, I’m not sure I can point to a single wound that might have proven fatal. We’ve done lots of stupid things along the way to be honest.

That said, one of our biggest mistakes and in particular mine was a lack of focus in the beginning. We thought and tried to chase every shiny object and thought of launching all sorts of products with our data.

That type of opportunity chasing is inefficient and leads to whiplash for the team and reduces clarity about us in the marketplace. Doing that was, in reality, a function of us not having a clear view into what we wanted to be when we grew up.

How to Restore the Unicorn’s Health

We really started listening to some of our early customers, and, as a result, we realized there were opportunities that made the most sense to pursue.

When we were 10 people back then, it was naive to think we could chase multiple markets with multiple products.

So we sat down, looked at where our customers were already using our data and realized that there were a few opportunities that were large and consistent with how customers already use us.

Instead of chasing shiny new opportunities that seemed like they might work, we went with the data and doubled-down on the places that were already working.

The idea part of starting up is fun. Execution and process seem less sexy, but that’s where the magic really is. Once we focused on those parts, good things started to happen.

How to Care for your Unicorn

On SaaS, Jason Lemkin (Saastr) is great as are several of the A16Z podcasts.

On marketing, Neil Patel, Brian Dean and Noah Kagan are great resources

Here are 2 posts from CB Insights that also could be helpful:

101 startup failure post-mortems

Top 20 reasons startups fail

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