Startups have a lot of disadvantages compared to other players in your industry. Most every other player in your industry has more money, more employees, more experience…pretty much more of everything. The only advantage that your startup has - and it’s bigger than you think - is focus.
Everyone you know woke up happy this morning without your startup idea in their lives. Despite this you believe that their lives will be better when the world experiences your idea. Your path to validate/invalidate your assumptions with very little resources is very difficult, so focus is not only important…it’s the most important thing.
Last week I met with a brand-new founder who left her corporate job to launch an app next month. Here’s the advice that I gave her about focus...
Despite being ready to launch an app, she had only done basic customer discovery, so there was another step before spending lots of money developing the first version of her app.
Really spend time to understand the core needs of her customers. Not a high-level “do people need this generally?” At the most basic level, what are her assumptions about the motivations for her customers to use her app? This is a space that should have much more technology than exists right now. There has to be strong, basic human reasons why other startups have failed in the same space. This doesn’t mean that all startups will fail forever trying to solve this problem, but it does mean that basic assumptions need to be clear and validated very early.
Then I encouraged her to look at existing offline behavior that validates/invalidates her basic assumptions before spending all the time and money to create her first app version. And even once she launches her first app, she’ll likely need at least two other major versions before finding product-market fit. I’ve rarely seen a startup get acceptable traction within the first twelve months.
I outlined this example to make the point that I'm not talking about focus in general (like a chef should mainly focus on preparing great food). I'm talking about very granular focus on the key assumptions and main differences in your business model and vision. Get that little fly wheel right very early and most other difficult things will fall into place.
Other players in your space are running their own playbook and have their own vision. Spending time focusing on what matters most for your unique vision is the biggest competitive advantage that you have as a startup founder.
In this podcast, this author describes how he thinks about startup focus.
Get Right to the Lesson
I’d recommend listening to the entire thing, but to get right to the point go to minute 15:12 of this podcast
Thanks to these folks for helping us all learn faster
Jeremiah Gardner (@JeremiahGardner)
Michael Sacca (@michaelsacca)
Joelle Goldman (@JoelleGoldman)
Matt Goldman (@SDMattG)
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.
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