A good friend of mine once told me that if you’re truly passionate about something, and are willing to do what it takes to make a change in our world, your first step to succeeding in that effort is,
“accepting to sit on your ass and eat dirt without reward or recognition for the first year.”
I know! Uplifting am I right? However in all due honesty, this was probably one of the most valuable and transferable pieces of advice I have ever been given. Everyday as a startup entrepreneur you will organically be forced into reading a handful of articles referring to the “Next Greatest Startup” who have just raised something mind-blowing like Juicero who managed to raise a whopping
to do nothing more than squeeze juice out of a plastic bag.
This is a prime example of what experienced entrepreneurs and venture capitalists would refer to as premature capital. — Honestly, where in the world was the consumer testing with this startup that failed to identify that any consumer could just squeeze the juice out of the packet,… just as everyone else has been doing with their toothpaste for the past century and a half?!
This brings up another extremely important point. — That is, getting funding will never be product validation. Seed stage investors are just as bad at guessing what products will succeed as you are. With that being said, without any product validation to rely on, they hedge their bets against your team’s past track record and storytelling ability. So while getting funded at this stage is a testament to your team building and pitching skills, it isn’t product validation.
More importantly, without validation you don’t have product/market credibility which typically comes at a price — reflected in lower valuations and investor-favored term sheets.
Now one of the most important foresights to see here is that time will forever be more valuable than money. Would you rather spend 6 months pitching investors so you can refine a story based on an untested product, or spend time pitching customers so you can tell a credible story based on a tested product?
All I can say is that traction always speaks louder than words.
And with that, traction always begins with taking a shit ton of time and devoting it to the refinement and evolution of vision.
We were all born amongst humans, and because of that you must from day one understand that your vision must institute a change for the better of humans. And so many strategist advisors will point you to conduct consumer research from this pool of people, in this area, who fit these socioeconomic, age and racial demographics. That’s utter bullshit. It’s like giving meat to a dog and waiting for it not to eat it, or suddenly speak in perfect english asking for pork instead. — Never going to happen. Point being if you’re only looking for one opinion, it’s really easy to only hear that opinion.
However if you’re looking, willing and passionate enough about your vision to create a credible story around a tested product, there’s one really easy way to do this.
Everyone and anyone. Give them your product or idea, and then just sit back and listen. Listen as they call you insane. Listen as they call you genius. Listen as they question you, and hell listen as they walk away from you. Truth is, a lean and experience entrepreneur has no room to ignore anything. Especially not conflicting opinions.
Our diversity in opinions is the very beauty that comes of the evolution of visions. So sit there, listen as 87% of everyone you consult throws dirt in your face, — cycle through your first iteration swiftly — and with any luck your approval rating will increase.
As Eric Ries once put it,
“Startups that succeed are those that manage to iterate enough times before running out of resources. Time between these iterations is fundamental.”
Once you have this mastered, next is looking to understand how many iterations you can afford to cycle through after your market has been established, but before there are too many competitors within it. — But more on that next time!
As my grandmother would always repeat to me growing up, patience is a virtue. The understanding and relevance of this saying couldn’t be higher right now.