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First Time Founders

February 1, 2012

Andreas Klinger has a great post with a long list of things first time founders do.  Here are some standouts (with our comments in parentheses):

They do mental incest by bouncing ideas off the same people every time.

(And even more often, mental masturbation, where you bounce ideas off of yourself)

They do “aspects of customer development, but…”

(Steve Blank is well enough known by now that in order to appear professional, you have to at least dismiss him.  But getting what Steve is up to is pretty tough, and walking the walk is much tougher.)

They do “lean, but…”

(Ditto Eric Ries)

They confuse customer assumptions with facts.

(In a startup context, where your customers are mostly prospective, asking potential customer’s what they want, and then building it is an express lane to failure.  People can’t articulate what they really want, are unconscious of the reasons they don’t already have it, and are hopelessly biased by the questions you’re asking.  If your solution is conventional, someone is already doing it better than a startup.  If it’s unconventional, aka innovative, there’s no direct path the customer’s buying decision.)

They have a society vision not a product vision. 

(Not quite sure what Klinger has in mind here, but a “society vision” is a state of society that includes ubiquitous use of your product.  In the society we’re unfortunately living in, no one has ever heard of your product.  What’s relevant is the next steps of the path you take, not a science fiction tableau of what the future looks like.  It won’t look like that.)

They cannot name failures in their product iterations.

(The essential difference between a startup and a company is that a startup is there to provide information about a business model for the entrepreneurs, while a company is there to provide value to customers.  Failures that lead to product iterations are little heaps of information, they are the coin of the realm.  So a startup that can’t name it’s failures is like a company that can’t accept money.)

They believe the Techcrunch posts about large investment rounds apply to them.

(This is the equivalent to worrying about terrorists or plane crashes.  If it’s in the news, then it’s a newsworthy – read “extremely rare” event.)

They don’t get that a low burnrate and being prelaunch doesn’t mean you have more time to waste.

(When you and your investors commit, you have a bucket of resources.  That bucket is leaking, and momentarily it’ll be empty.)

They spend more time on fundraising than on their product and value investment over traction.

(This one’s hard not to do, because fundraising takes way more time and effort than you think. But traction is the most bankable asset a startup can have; with enough of it, it’ll be the investors spending that time and effort; with too little, you can fundraise till eternity to no avail.)

They validate their customer hypothesis with investors.

(Different animal.)

They improve their product based on investor feedback.

(As above.)

They launch ‘in one month’.

(It’ll certainly take two or three months.  But much worse than that, during those three months, little or no value will be added every day.)

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