Distraction is one of the main killers of startups. We start with an idea, get it to someplace, and then abandon it for a “better idea”. I certainly am guilty of that a bunch of times. Most of the time, the reason we abandon an idea is that we think it’s not good enough compared to the new idea that crosses our minds. We forget that any idea will have some customers. Some ideas have more potential than others and might be easier to reach profitability. The problem is the repetition of abandoning one idea and constantly pivoting.
Lack of focus is something that many entrepreneurs suffer from [including myself]. We keep finding new shiny things that are more attractive than what we already have until we run out of time. Even if our current idea is not the next Google or Facebook, but it has some traction, keep going! The amount of overhead and work that goes into starting fresh is tremendous and the stakes are high. If you are absolutely sure that your current idea is bad, by all means, we should pivot and feel good about it, but man! How many times do we pivot from an idea and not realizing its potential? I want to say, way more than we realize.
Okay, let’s say we have a startup going and we have a little traction, but we’re early and it takes time to build the relationships and search engines recognize us, etc. But we’re impatient and want results fast and we blame this slow growth on the idea. Sure! There are ideas out there that if you execute on, are like hitting the jackpot! But, how likely is it that we hit them? How many times have you heard the story of someone posting something on Hackernews and people go crazy on them? Yeah, there are a few, but only happen once in a zillion. A lot of times the idea is OK, but just needs more time to develop and find its audience. So, let’s not forget that.
I like playing chess. I’m not great at it, it’s just calming when I have too much to think about. I used to quit the game when I lost a piece and the game was not going perfect. Soon, I learned that if I continued the game with determination, there’s a good chance I can still win. I would say half of the time that I lose a piece due to a mistake, I can still recover. My lesson learned for real life is, don’t abandon the ship if it’s not perfectly on course. It almost never is. Nothing in this world is perfect and it takes a lot of hard work and luck for things to line up for our success.
Years ago, when I was a kid, we were going out on a road trip. We had some birds at home and we wanted to make sure they have enough food and water while we were gone. So we filled their cage with food, several containers of water, and so on and so forth. It was more than enough food for them to survive for a whole month and we were only going out for a week. After we came back from the trip, the birds were almost dying of hunger. Ther were weak and desperately trying to escape. We were surprised. They must have had enough food. What the hell did go wrong? The food was right there, we found out. But a large piece of newspaper somehow ended up covering most of the food and the birds couldn’t find it.
The food was right there, but the birds were not seeing it. Having a look under the newspaper, they would have found large reserves of food, but they simply didn’t. They gave up. I think about that story a lot. I think we humans are the same. We don’t look carefully enough. We keep thinking that our real food is somewhere out there, but it’s closer than what we think. We just need to look more carefully.
How do we know if we really ran out of food versus not looking hard enough? Now we’re talking. We need to validate our idea. We need to test the idea with the target customers we have in mind. If customers don’t knock on the door, either they don’t know about us or they don’t need us that often. We’ll need to find out which it is and fast. We’ll need to talk to the customers. We need to interview our customers obsessively and understand their pain points. We need to understand what keeps them up at night and whether we’re solving that problem or not. If we have that down, the rest becomes much easier. If we interview enough customers and understand who has what problems, we’d know who to market to and which keywords we’d need to use in our ad campaigns later on.
It is absolutely essential for every startup to go through this stage and validate its idea with real customers. More often than we’d want to hear, we just go off of the idea that we have because it sounds cool or it’s something that we ourselves need. But we don’t know who else needs our solution. Then we get lost shooting in the dark looking for our customers. Instead, if we do it right from the beginning, we don’t have to go down that rabbit hole.
We provide that service to you. That is the sole reason that we exist. We’re here to help startups find their target customers. It is really easy to do. You signup as an entrepreneur, post your project and tell customers who you are looking for, they bid on your project, you recruit the ones who are relevant to your project and pay them for their time. It’s that easy. Spending the time and a little bit of money at this stage of your startup is going to save you a lot of trouble down the road. The danger of skipping this step is that when things go wrong in your startup, which they surely will, you’ll know that the idea is solid. If you skip this step, you’ll never know if you are solving the right problem for the right people or not.
Hope this helps, yours, Adam