Every founder has super powers and blind spots. The hope is that the results that come from the super powers far outweigh any problems that are caused by the blind spots. Once a company is growing you can hire to offset blind spots, but early on it's really about one side overwhelming the other for the founding team.
One of my blind spots is overthinking. At my core I believe that a few people can sit in a room and some combination of unique insight and intelligence about the space can enable that group to find a 10x better product if they are super creative.
Over the years I've realized that this style is very specific to me. Almost everyone else I meet believes that talking with customers and building an MVP is the best way to iterate to a great product. After much friction I've come to realize that they are right. While there's value in my style, most great ideas aren't created in dark caves alone. Most great startups are lots of real-world fits and starts.
Because I've wrestled with this topic over the years, I'm always looking for successful founders with thoughts about this issue. That's why my ears perked-up when I heard Mark Zuckerberg say "startups are learning organisms" on this YC podcast.
It's natural to think about Facebook how it is now - at tremendous scale - but his comments were in the context of their early work before the company had raised much money. In this podcast Mark describes how founders can make decisions that either help them learn faster or learn slower. It's like the scientific method...you setup things well and then the process tells you what to do.
As I've gained more hands-on experience with startups and seen lots and lots of them fail and succeed I've grown to realize that one of the best ways that founders can act is (a) do lots of stuff at a rapid pace, (b) setup systems where data is constantly being surfaced in the right ways and then (c) use that (often surprising data) to drive day-to-day tactical activity. Long-term strategy isn't nearly as important as operating this way so that the team can quickly alter course to follow momentum.
And if you are particularly interested in reading about more tactical execution topics, here are all my blog posts tagged “execution."
Sidenote: I've never paid much attention to Zuckerberg, but this podcast gave me lots more respect for what he did in college before Facebook.
Get Right to the Lesson
I’d recommend listening to the entire thing, but to get right to the point go to minute 9:35 of this podcast/video.
Thanks to these folks for helping us all learn faster
Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook
Y Combinator (@ycombinator)
Paul Graham (@paulg) of YC (@ycombinator)
Sam Altman (@sama), 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.