Blog: Being wrong about your startup is a powerful thing. Here’s why

Pumulo Ngoma shares five ways Mata Africa is trying to be less wrong

JAMLAB Contributor
Mar 30, 2020 · 4 min read
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Image: Nick Fewings/Unsplash

By Pumulo Ngoma

Being wrong about your startup is certainly a powerful thing. I know, it seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

I first experienced this philosophy in Elon Musk’s biography by Ashley Vance, titled Elon Musk, though it could also be titled Mars and I still would’ve read it. In a later interview, Musk mentioned that the goal was always to begin from the starting point that you are wrong about your idea. The goal, then, is to be less wrong. Put differently, it’s a spectrum, “I am accepting that at the start, I was 100% wrong about this idea, but after research, I might only be 30% wrong” and that’s great. Why? Because it produces an opportunity for continuous improvement.

For some strange reason, as human beings we have an inbuilt desire to be right; it’s part of our operating system. We live in a culture that is obsessed with being right; it gives us an ego boost, an essential rush of dopamine…

But it also makes us fear failure.

That’s right, we’re scared of failing.

We’re quaking in our boots at the thought.

And if we’re scared of failing, it’s a given that we’re scared of trying. But if you treat an idea as ‘wrong’ from the get-go, then two things happen: first, there’s less to fear because you’re already wrong (you can only be less wrong) and second, you’ll probably work harder to prove you’re right.

When we started on the jamlab Accelerator Programme, we had an idea to produce African Millennial Video content. Through engagement at jamlab, that idea changed and our core business idea became distribution. We had offered branded video production because we loved it (we still do!), but the data led us in the direction of distribution. With that being said, here are some ways we’re learning to be less wrong.

1. DON’T LIE TO YOURSELF

2. DON’T WAIT TO GET CUSTOMER FEEDBACK

3. DATE YOUR IDEA, DON’T MARRY IT

Don’t obsess over an idea that you haven’t yet proven. Rather prove it, and let the data argue its own case.

4. TEST WITH DIGITAL MEDIA

5. DON’T BE STINGY ABOUT YOUR IDEA

Don’t do it.

If you’re worried about an idea being stolen, sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) before asking for feedback, or consult with mentors you trust. You don’t need to reveal your entire plan to the world like every villain in every show ever, but you do need to test the core feature externally. Experiment with it, refine it, rework it, “flip it and reverse it”, throw that idea into the deep end and let it swim. Or sink. If through the process of testing your assumptions, you’re not surprised by what you discover, keep testing until you are. The goal is not to be right, but to be less wrong. The world is infinite and vast and varied, teeming with evidence, it’s up to us to find it.

Mata Africa is an AI-driven, video content distribution startup. Mata is passionate about transforming the African Millennial narrative by connecting Pan-African audiences to edgy, empowering and immersive branded video content. We are committed to being the ones we have been waiting for, and the change we seek. Join us on our journey:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcYPmv4_uY0SwgmftN7sH0A

jamlab

Strengthening innovation in African independent journalism and media.

JAMLAB Contributor

Written by

jamlab

jamlab

The Jamlab Africa Newsletter is produced by Wits Journalism. The Journalism and Media Lab supports innovators to bring new information, new ideas and new conversations to new audiences in Africa.

JAMLAB Contributor

Written by

jamlab

jamlab

The Jamlab Africa Newsletter is produced by Wits Journalism. The Journalism and Media Lab supports innovators to bring new information, new ideas and new conversations to new audiences in Africa.

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