How can you accelerate your startup or new product? Ship it, share it and get feedback. “Many entrepreneurs are hesitant to share too much about what they’re doing and, even when they do, they hold back some of their thoughts even when talking to people who could be incredibly helpful to them.” So say Nate Abbott and Natty Zola, co-founders of Everlater (acquired by MapQuest in 2012) in a great book Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup by Brad Feld and David Cohen.
The book, published in 2010, is a series of short essays for entrepreneurs on vision, managing people, building products, fundraising and staying sane. Its a great startup resource, and a good introduction to TechStars. The book is organized into themes, and today I’ll share a little about the first section of the book “Idea and Vision”.
Idea and Vision
“Most people think that the core of a startup is a singular amazing world-changing and earth-shattering idea. It turns out that this idea is almost always completely wrong. … Startups are about testing theories and quickly pivoting based on feedback and data. Only through hundreds of small – and sometimes large – adjustments does the seemingly overnight success emerge.” So begins the series of essays on Idea and Vision.
- Trust Me, Your Idea Is Worthless (Tim Ferriss)
“Almost anyone can (and has!) come up with a great idea, but only a skilled entrepreneur can execute it. Skilled in this case doesn’t mean experienced; it means flexible and action-oriented.”
- Start With Your Passion (Kevin Mann, founder Graphic.ly)
“Every single day I am excited to go to work. I get to create and innovate in a sector I love. … If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, it won’t mean enough to you to succeed. Startup founders choose an insanely difficult path, so passion is a prerequisite.”
- Look for the Pain (Isaac Saldana, founder SendGrid)
“When you’re selling a solution to a problem and you find that nobody is saying no to your prices, you’ve found some serious pain. We’re building SendGrid to solve a very specific problem that I discovered just by paying attention.”
- Get Feedback Early (Nate Abbott & Natty Zola, co-founders of Everlater)
“Entrepreneurs overvalue their ideas. They should be doing the opposite and shout about what they are working on from any rooftop they can find. Getting feedback and new ideas is the lifeblood of any startup. There is no point in living in fear of someone stealing your idea.”
- Usage Is Like Oxygen for Ideas (Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress)
“You can never fully anticipate how an audience is going to react to something you’ve created until it’s out there. That means every moment you’re working on something without it being in the public arena, it’s actually dying, deprived of the oxygen of the real world. By shipping early and often you have the unique competitive advantage of getting useful feedback on your product.”
“You think your busines is different, you’re going to have only one shot at press, and everything needs to be perfect for when TechCruch brings the world to your door. But if you have only one shot at getting an audience, you are doing it wrong.”
“In a rapid iteration environment, the most important thing isn’t necessarily how perfect code is when you send it out, but how quickly you can revert.”
- Forget the Kitchen Sink (David Cohen, co-founder of TechStars)
“Most people use a particular service because it does one thing really, really well.”
“Small things, like a microscopic world, almost always turn out to be bigger than you think when you zoom in” (quoting Ev Williams)
- Find That One Thing They Love (Darren Crystal, co-founder Photobucket)
“We noticed that people were doing something that we didn’t want them to do. … At first, our natural instinct was to shut this behavior down because it’s not what we wanted our users to do. Luckily, we didn’t act on that instinct quickly. Instead, we started watching what our users were doing, and we discovered that most of them didn’t even care about the photo sharing site. Instead our services turned out to be a way for our users to show their photos on sites like eBay, LiveJournal, Craigslist, and social networking sites like MySpace.”
- You Never Need Another Original Idea (Niel Robertson, founder of Trada)
“As long as I listen to my customers, I never need to have another original idea. It’s a simple concept. Go get customers, then listen. It really can be that simple. The agbility to listen is an important skill for any startup founder. We’re all accustomed to trying to persuade people to try our products, invest in our companies, or to listen to what we have to say. If you’re doing that with customers, you’re doing it backward. Too many startups build things that they think their customers will want. If you’re looking for creative ideas that can make your company better, simply spend time with your customers. It’s not rocket science, but I’m always surprised by how few companies are really good at doing this”
[I would note that you're not listen to customers for solutions, you're listening for their unsolved and important problems. They don't define the solution, they identify the problem for you to solve.]