“When You Start a Startup You’re Under Everything”

“When You Start a Startup You’re Under Everything”

We kicked off our Spring Startup Next session a few weeks in Seattle. Great group of teams going through orientation with a few Startup Next alumni talking about what they learned in previous semesters and what attendees should expect during the sessions.

All of our alumni were great at answering questions, so a special thank you to Brenton Webster of FastBar, Mamtha Banerjee of Magicflix  and Devin Elliott of Unoceros. Each of the founders had been part of a previous Next cohort and had subsequently completed either Techstars or 9Mile Labs accelerator programs.

One comment from Devin made during the panel that caught my attention was that “When you start a startup, you’re under everything”. He was responding to a question from the audience about what should you do first, or how do you prioritize all of the things that you need to do?

He had a great point, when you’re doing a startup you are:

  • Underfunded – you don’t have enough cash to do all of the things that you want to do. You have to make choice and
  • Understaffed – you’re the founder, that means that regardless of your past experience or specialty, you are now a generalist that is responsible for delivering all results. This includes the areas that may have not historically paid any attention. Sadly you can no longer just focus on the code…

Here’s a couple of things you can avoid being under –

  • Don’t be under-whelming – the worst thing for a startup is to create a product that only creates an incremental improvements – if your customers response to your product is a shrug of their shoulders and a “meh” when you ask about your product, you’ll need to rethink the problem you’re solving. You’re going to need a pain-killer not a vitamin.
  • Don’t be under-researched – as Steve Blank says, get out of the building and go do customer development. Talk to 50-100 prospects if it’s a B2C product and talk to 25+ if it’s B2B. Customer data overwhelms opinion, including your opinion.
  • Don’t be under-committed – if you haven’t left your day job yet, don’t expect investors to write you a check. I’m not saying leave too early, make sure you do the research make a leap into any startup. But realize no investor will ever have a greater commitment than you will in your startup.

You will need to learn to balance all of the demands for your time and figure out how to prioritize all of the things that you need to get done. Every once in a while I’ll hear someone say, I just need to take six months off to think about the problem or the strategy. Sadly, that’s now the way the real world works.

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