Having been associated with startups for over 8 years, when I have been an entrepreneur and worked with successful startups right from the idea stage, I have come to know some seemingly good traits of entrepreneurs, which in fact hinder success.
As an entrepreneur, you are an optimist by definition. One who sees a problem, identifies a solution, fills the gaps, works hard and brings the solution to the world. A dose of optimism is needed at every stage of the process and in every single day of your work. Right?
Most successful entrepreneurs are realists. One important characteristic that makes some entrepreneurs successful is the extent to which they can foresee and measure risks. It is precisely this quality that makes them realists. When someone evaluates potential risks to the extent possible and has answers for the same, there is very little room for speculation, and hence, the decision to take a certain path turns into one of a realist.
An optimist’s decision, on the other hand, is one that involves a good element of uncertainty. More often than not, this is due to lack of due diligence or vision. While there will be great success stories here as well, the odds can vary immensely.
Loving the Idea
Picking a startup idea is much like choosing a life partner. For a better future, you should flirt with ideas, as many as possible and as much as possible, to find the right fit in terms of capabilities, investments and other factors.
Much the same as how you’d stick to your life partner after choosing one (well, ideally), an entrepreneur should stick to the Idea no matter what and take it to the end. Right? Not really.
While a critical assessment of the idea is paramount before embarking on your long journey, it is imperative to be dispassionate about it later. Despite your best efforts, you will see gaps in the idea during the journey. Some surpassable and some hard. When there are questions raised on fundamental aspects that determine the success of the idea, it is time for a dispassionate rethink and pivot if necessary. This is really hard to do if you are in love with your idea. Worse, your love for the idea may not even allow you to get to this stage.
By its very nature, love blinds you from shortcomings of the subject. While this is great if it’s a person, it can prove devastating when it’s a business idea.
Perfection in itself can not be a negative thing. The key, however, is in knowing where to apply it. Entrepreneurs from different backgrounds tend to perfect diverse aspects, and in the process, miss the holistic perfection.
If you are a tech entrepreneur, It’s alright if you don’t have the ideal technical architecture until you need to scale. It’s Ok if you don’t have all the features as long as you still solve the pain for someone. It’s Ok if your first website isn’t fancy as long as it conveys the value. It’s even Ok if you don’t have that killer sales guy as long as you are selling to early adopters.
The success of a startup is a combination of a lot of things, each of which need not be perfect. What needs to be perfect, is the right blend of things which optimises the chances of market success. This is very well illustrated by Steve Blank in his 4 steps to epiphany.
Happy hacking 🙂