Everyone has that one initial failure that helps inform their future startup work. For some people it might have been something low-risk while they were in school. For me it was my first startup in San Francisco. For the the founder in this podcast, his first “bad” startup came out of a side project in 2006.
What he learned - that informed all his future startup work - was that there are a lot of activities that founders can do that seem important, but what matters most is validating that people want the product you have in mind. His advice is to make a list of the hardest things that you have to do for your company to succeed and go down that list from hardest to easiest.
Nine months ago I wrote a blog post titled “The only metric that really matters for an early startup.” Like this founder details in this podcast, in this blog post I tried to lay out the distractions that I most often see founders focused on. These include attending conferences, working on your name/logo, trying to sign long sales cycle contracts, recruiting early advisors/investors and spending too much time trying to get press mentions.
While all of these “feel good” activities contribute a small amount to the startup, they should all follow real evidence that you have a product that people actually want.
How do you do this? First…talk with customers and resist the urge to write code. Also talk with people smart about this space to get as smart as you can as fast as you can. Then put up a quick landing page to start driving customers to to gauge interest. Remain in this "concept stage" until you have lots of real (or even anecdotal) evidence that potential customers really want this product.
By nature of starting a high-growth startup, you believe that your customers will be much better off once they are using your product. Not 10% better off. You believe they will be 1000% better off. Break down all the assumptions you have about their behavior and test them as quickly and cheaply as possible before you write a line of code.
Want additional evidence that this is the right approach? Look no further than one of the best known west coast VCs.
Get Right to the Lesson
I’d recommend listening to the entire thing, but to get right to the point go to minute 2:27 of this podcast.
Thanks to these folks for helping us all learn faster
Roger Dickey (@rogerdickey), founder of Gigster (@trygigster)
Y Combinator (@ycombinator)
Paul Graham (@paulg) of YC (@ycombinator)
Kat Manalac (@KatManalac), Partner at YC (@ycombinator)
Aaron Harris (@harris), Partner at YC (@ycombinator)
Please let me and others know what you think about this topic
Email me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org or let's discuss publicly at @davempayne.