Why you are not the right founder(s) for your startup

Twice a year at Startup42, we receive applications to our new season. And with our business model — no equity and no fees taken — you can imagine we receive quite many. Our only condition to apply: at least one person must be developing the first (software) version of your product among the founders. This has two roles: 1) it ensures we share the same DNA 2) it ensures we can work hard on the product during the 4-months session.
But this time, I was shocked by a new trend among them…

Marketplaces and Social Networks still get all the hype

Blablacar, AirBnB, Uber, Facebook, Snapchat, UpWork, Tinder, Etsy, Amazon, LinkedIn are highly visible because that’s where we spend a lot of our time. And that is probably why they inspire so many founders to build a “Uber for X” or a “AirBnB for Y”.
But why are they so visible? Because they are community-driven startups. That means that their strength doesn’t lie in the product itself but in their capacity to flood the market and to gather a lot of people (buyers and sellers) around one single platform.

Yes, the platform needs to work well. Yes, it will be important to have nice features on the platform to keep the customers captive. But remember, community-driven startups are first and foremost about building a community and acquiring users! Far more than with other projects.

Startups are already hard enough

Starting a startup has never been easier. And a lot of people are here to help you (see my SlideShare on the startup ecosystem). And you should start a startup if you feel like you need to.
Oh and also, never ever forget that startups are hard.

Just a quick reminder: we call $1b startups unicorns and $100M startups centaurs. Why do you think we use fantasy terms? Because it virtually never happens that someone builds one.

So if you want to start a real startup that has the potential to reach these levels, you should put all the odds on your side: building a great team, building an incredible product, attacking an highly painful problem, surrounding yourself with the most talented people, starting in the best place you can afford etc. All these are important and you probably know about it.

But did you think about team-market fit & team-product fit?

Play with your strengths

Basket-ball players are tall, jockeys are small and light, sumo wrestlers are large. Why? Because it’s easier to play a game that emphasizes your strengths. Startups are the same.

When you consider starting a startup, take into account the strengths of the team in terms of skills and network and play with them.

First start by asking yourself this question: which market do we know very well?
And by knowing very well I mean people that you can talk to easily by just calling them, arranging a meeting or emailing them and being sure that you’ll get answers. Because it is critical for you to understand their problems really really well and talk to them a lot ( at least 10 times a week having IRL conversations) all along your journey.

Then, once you found a big enough problem and found a way to solve it, ask yourself this question: are we the right team to build that solution?

In general that’s about when business guys start trying to find developers (here’s a post to help you) because they can’t go further.

But here is the big problem I found while reading the applications: techies don’t ask themselves that question when they should. And especially when it comes to community-driven startups.

So please, take a moment and think about it.

And start searching for someone that has a hustling acquisition mindset if you need one! We frequently organise events for that specific purpose, next one should come in June, stay tuned.

Techies don’t like tech anymore

I wish I could see so many more full-tech teams attacking ambitious industrial problematics because that’s where they are the best. And with 43 startups accelerated so far I can only emphasize on how true this is.

Bottom line, play with your strengths, think about team-market fit and team-product fit, if you want to get the best shot at creating a mystical creature :)

Follow me on Twitter (@MaximePico) to read more awesome stories about entrepreneurship, growth hacking, lean startup and hackers… And of course check out Startup42, the best early-stage tech startups accelerator in Paris