Someone asked me the other day about what I’d wish I’d known before founding a startup. Which made me think for a bit, because it’s a lot.
But if I had to pick just a couple of things, it would be this — and it’s probably not what you want to hear.
Getting to somewhere interesting and relevant takes (much) longer than you think.
The health of your startup can be measured by the time it takes to get there, aka how long it takes to complete a build-measure-learn cycle, aka how long it takes from analysing data from the customer interviews and the analytics data from the product to implementing them in a new product release and test again.
If it’s taking weeks, you’re losing already. Stop everything. Do everything and anything — short of committing outright felonies — to speed it up and keep the speed up. Fire co-founders if needed. Fire investors, if you can.
When the amount of new learnings about new stuff to build outnumbers the amount of pre-existing learnings about the stuff you already know you have to build (the stuff you already have in the pipeline, the stuff you haven’t gotten around to implement or change yet), you’re probably already dead.
Just because you get the technical parts right (both in reading where the puck is going to be and how to develop and be in the right position when it does) doesn’t mean you have gotten the customer part right, aka just because you know it’s going to be possible doesn’t mean that people is going to be wanting and using it.
Managing customer risk is the biggest challenge in a startup — so position yourself, your team and your product as fast as possible and with as little resources as possible to be in a spot where you can build-measure-learn your way to what the customer actually wants as fast as possible, wasting as few resources as possible. Screw the technology debt, it will all come out in the wash — you only have to deal with it if and only if what you’re building becomes interesting. And that’s a big IF.
See 1. & 2.
I wish I had known it in my bones, not just in theory, before starting.
Do or don’t, there is no try.