September 3, 2021
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Building a business: Chess or Backgammon?

Random or organized, luck or hard work? Which one is it?

I used to think building a successful business is just like throwing the dice. I could not be more wrong. That’s why you should not give up easily when things go south as they always do! Things always go wrong. What matters the most is staying and fighting.

I’m not sure if you’ve played backgammon or not, but it’s like a series of dice throws followed by moves. There are many different moves that each player can make in each turn. If you play badly, you will lose no matter how good dice rolls you get. For me, most of the ideas that I tried and failed were not because the ideas were bad. The market was there, but I just gave up too soon and I did not try to sell.

Being able to sell and having a market are the most important factors in the success of a startup. The first days of a startup are the most difficult ones and persevering through those days is the most important thing for the founders to do. Things don’t sell themselves even if they are iPhones. Marketing matters so much more than many technical founders think.

Even if you are building a product that’s not good, you can still sell it. If a company has tried different ideas and nothing works, candidly, it is the founder to blame. At this point, they’ll need to break down what’s preventing them from selling. Is it a lack of effort to sell? Is it a lack of skill? Is it not spending enough time on selling or something else?

Building is easy. Selling is hard. Or is it? I’m a scientist myself. I could never imagine that a mathematician can be a good salesman, but to my surprise, I saw this talk from YCombinator. Tyler is a mathematician and statistician by training, but he is an amazing salesman. In his talk, he tells us that he was spending 100% of his time selling and the other two cofounders were building the product.

If a math major can sell, so can you! I don’t mean to be mean to Tyler, but he does not look anything like Don Draper. Sales is not as scary as we think it is! I am learning it myself and it’s nothing more than helping someone do something better.

Once we validate our idea by talking to users and building our MVP our next move must be selling up to the point that we discover that our MVP needs improvement. MVPs are not supposed to be perfect. They are meant for testing a concept. They can be turned into a product, but more often than not, we will have to tear them down and start fresh.