Filtering by Category: Leadership
One of the biggest challenges so many young startups with global disruption ambitions face is an addiction to revenue.
In the early stages a startup’s life its job is to grow - fast - not to make revenue or profit. That’s why they raise enough capital to invest in growth for the first few years.
Undue focus on revenue forces decisions that can be massively distracting, undermine focus, create overstuffed products and stunt growth - ultimately killing the company.
Instead: Focus on what users need. Focus on doing just a few things well. Focus on product polish. Focus on repeatable, scalable workflows. Focus on removing pain and friction. Focus on building something that people love (the hardest thing in the world).
Defocusing revenue also allows you to consider disrupting rather than partnering with incumbents. It’s very easy to run to where the money and scale is. However often times a tech startup should be killing not helping some of the legacy players in an ecosystem. Or at the very least forcing them to play by new rules.
One of my colleagues on ‘execution’:
“People always hear that execution is everything in startups.
The problem is that they think “execution” is all about more action. But that’s like an amateur running onto a pro basketball court and running around throwing the ball in the air.
Execution is about getting the ball in the hoop and all of the skill, experience and muscle memory it takes to make that happen”.
As a young startup, the things you must avoid include...
Biting off more than you can chew
Protracted timelines/scope creep that can blow out
Over engineering your solution before you know what your users really need
Poor/miscommunication between stakeholders
Over promising and under delivering
This is why MVPs and strong cross functional process is essential.
Reminder: If your problem is getting from A to B then the MVP is a skateboard (then a bicycle, then a motorbike, then a little hatchback, then a sedan, then a Porsche), not 4 wheels.
Be careful of your personal narratives and biases. They might be getting in your way and sabotaging your stated goals. For example:
Fundraising is not 'grovelling for money' - it's sharing your ideas and looking for partners who want to join you on the journey.
Monitor for any internal struggle between wanting to build a 'lifestyle business' and 'high-growth startup'. Both are fine, but they are different things and you should pick one intentionally.
All the data, opinions and ideas are the raw material piled up at the start of the process. Ultimately it’s up to you what gets packaged up and sent down the line for assembly (in the form of a PRD).
If debates are going on too long it’s your job to drive a decision, codify it into a PRD and send it down the line to design or engineering.
As a Product Manager: You set the priorities and scope. Engineers set the date.
If you have a fixed date you need to hit, then you must de-scope until engineers feel comfortable they can hit the date.
My friend just asked me how Uber scaled so fast. My off-the-cuff answer:
Huge ambition/vision/appetite - this animates and motivates everyone and everything
First principles thinking - this leads to ignoring legacy constraints and encourages new innovative thinking/solutions
Fearless execution with ownership/accountability at the edge - which allows everyone to move fast without waiting for permission
I’d also add...
Bias towards action - move fast. Have the meeting this week, not next week
Hire strong operators that, in-turn, hire strong operators.
Of course, these are some of the same things that got it in trouble too.
You must choose a minimum viable customer and build a killer, habit forming product for them. Then, and only then, can you incrementally expand to other use-cases and market segments.