The common belief is that you become a founder the day that you leave your day job to focus full-time on a new startup idea.
I’m beginning to believe that the path is more like this...
Step #1 You start off with a problem that you want to solve.
Step #2 You have a vision of what the future with look like.
Step #3 You come up with a solution.
Step #4 You launch a product based on that solution.
Pretty simple and straightforward, right? This is the point when the train usually comes off the tracks.
Step #5 Customers aren't using the product like you expect.
Step #6 Big time depression hits because usage doesn't change despite your best efforts.
There are other names for this phase (examples here and here). The founder in this podcast calls it “the pit of despair.”
I believe that being a true founder doesn’t begin until you hit this (very nasty) point.
What separates good founders from great founders is what they do while in the pit of despair. This doesn't mean that all startups can be successful - sometimes the timing is just wrong - but just having an idea, launching it and shutting down when it doesn't work implies a very naive view of how the world works.
We live in a moment of human history where building technology products and gaining the initial attention of your target customers has never been easier. This might sound ideal for entrepreneurs, but the downside is that almost all ideas have been tried before. In other words, pretty much any problem worth solving today can't be solved with a straight-forward product build. So reaching product-market fit is more about figuring-out how to solve what's holding things back rather than building the product in a straight-forward way.
If you are a founder currently in this phase, my best advice is to talk through these issues in a very frank way with founders who have been in this spot and successfully emerged from the other side.
Get Right to the Lesson
I’d recommend listening to the entire thing, but to get right to the point go to minute 30:49 of this video.
Thanks to these folks for helping us all learn faster
Michael Serbinis (@mserbinis), CEO of League (@JoinLeague)
Andrew Warner (@AndrewWarner) of Mixergy (@Mixergy)
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.