For the past three years, I have been living my professional life in the startup world. I was involved with many startup companies. One of them I helped found but has now closed down due to lack of funding. One I have left after working as an engineer there for around 8 months. My current one where I’m part of the founding team. And many more that I have advised, and interacted-with throughout the years. Each startup has been very different but equally intense and a great learning experience. When I look back at these past few years, here are a few lessons that come to mind.
It’s the people, people.
There’re so many things you look for when choosing a startup to work with: Product, technology, funding etc. Always, always, pick carefully the people you work with. Your work life happiness really depends on it. When you work with the right people, all other seems secondary. When you work with the wrong people, it affects your work, which then affects the company. Different people look for different things in a team though, pick the right team for yourself.
Rely on your team, and be reliable.
Great people are people you can trust and rely on. Intelligent people are good but not great if you can’t depend on them. When you already have the right team make sure to trust them, earn their trust & maintain it with all your power.
Advice is just advice. Trust your gut.
There’s rarely an absolute truth that applies to every startup. Reading and learning from other people’s experience is good but can be dangerous if you follow them blindly. Especially for consumer products, it’s easy for people to have opinions, most of them are wrong, some are misleading, a lot are irrelevant and distracting.
Things are not as easy or as hard as it seems: Don’t be afraid but be prepared
Some things that you think are hard, are usually easier than you think. Don’t be afraid, acknowledge the difficult stuff by tackling it first.
Some things that you take for granted are actually a lot harder than you think it is. Be prepared, try not too underestimate your competitors and always go all out.
It’s important to know what’s important
If everything’s important, nothing is. At different stages of a startup, your priority changes. Like in golf, use the right club to hit the ball. When your goal is far away,it’s important to make bigger shots to get the most impact (pivoting), but when it’s closer it becomes more important to optimise and make smaller changes.