Focus on the Here and Now
Getting your startup off the ground is going to require you to nail down a ton of tasks – on a short deadline. As the Founder (new CEO?) some of the tasks are in your sweet spot, and some will require you to learn new skills. You will need to launch the right MVP product, test it with customers and get revenue. There is also a laundry list of things you could be working on that aren’t likely priorities.
Set a goal for yourself to have traction in six months. Not six years!
At Startup Weekend we’d talk about the type of person who would get sh*t done. You need to be the type of person to get the right things done. Startup Weekend events ran from Friday night to Sunday night, and because of that time constraint, it created a forcing function. This forcing function made you (and your team) decide what to focus on and what to throw out as well. You just didn’t have time to do a spreadsheet or a financial model when you didn’t know any assumptions.
These constraints are actually good for you. It forces you to answer key questions NOW vs waiting. Some founders fail to deal with them and their project lingers ad infinitum – the same way forever.
- You don’t have capital – great, what can you do? Go interview 50 or 100 of your target customers and get feedback that they would be willing to buy the product if you made it. What would they pay, what features would they want at launch?
- You don’t have a developer – great, what can you build? You can mock up a product on PowerPoint and show it on your tablet.
Stop doing the things that don’t advance your goal. It’s like going to get office supplies at Staples – that’s not building your business. If you don’t have a product or revenue or haven’t completed your customer development testing, you don’t know if you have a product or a company.
Stop worrying about trademarks or buying an expensive domain. Focus on the here and now. Do customers really want your product?
Aspiration or Reality?
The Seattle startup ecosystem has a lot of aspirational members. We have some Visionary Entrepreneurs who haven’t grown a company, raised any cash or sold a company. And of course, we have Serial Entrepreneurs who have thought about opening multiple companies but their LinkedIn profile reflects they can’t hold a job. If you have “visionary” in your profile, please don’t ask me to connect on LinkedIn, unless you’ve already done something.
Customers aren’t really customers (yet). They are prospects of people who they have talked to about their company and product.
Aspirational Investors. They hang out with “angel groups,” but they’re likely a service provider who’s never made an investment.
I recently saw a new LinkedIn profile (from someone I won’t follow), whose current role was Philanthropist. I know the person wasn’t (yet) a philanthropist. Did someone go to a seminar where you were encouraged to put your aspirations into your LinkedIn “current position” listing? You need to have some basis for a future claim or it’s just goofy. Coaches that are telling you to do that are giving you bad advice.
Deal in Reality
Finally, the faster you deal in reality today – and not the future – the better it will be. Work within your constraints and get things done today. If you don’t have the resources to work on the idea now, park the idea on your hard drive and come back to it. Find a way to make some cash in the meantime – build more skills.
Can’t find a developer? Go take a class – online or in person and learn to code. You have the time – the idea will wait. Why? Because you’re not building it now. Use your personal time to develop your skills to become what you want to become. I know founders who have worked on the same idea for years. Literally, years with no progress, looking for a developer they can convince to do work for free. In that time, they could have become a developer – it will pay well and you can build your product yourself.
For those of you who are out being visionaries, entrepreneurs, investors and philanthropists. THANK YOU for inspiring us with what you’ve accomplished and achieved. It’s our aspiration to follow in your footsteps.
Go get the right sh*t done!