Sometimes, you need to hear the tough things no one wants to tell you; but every founder should hear. To some, they’re obvious. But others…not so much.
1. Don’t compare yourself to media stories.
Scroll down through trending questions in Quora, and you’ll see just about every founder asking “what are the best startups? What are the one’s that succeed?” If you’re trying to copy people, you fail. Other note: the media’s job is to create an image of awesomeness about someone having a huge success. Don’t look to this for your own success. You create your own success story. Every company is different, every entrepreneur is different. Every success will be achieved in a different way.
2. Fundraising is never priority #1.
Reality: angel investors might give you some money, if you’re really lucky, but it’s highly unlikely. Friends and family money only destroys relationships. And venture capital is for growth. Banks aren’t lending. And very few people having equity in their house now. If you are building a company that needs financing in order to make money, you now have a 1<% chance of survival. Your priority should be building a business, not fundraising. You’re not going to get any money until you have built a company that is valuable. And at that point, your options are wide open anyway.
Also, if you haven’t heard, the fundraising environment (seed venture capital & angel investing) has tightened it’s purse strings reeeallly tight over the past 6 months.
3. A business isn’t real until you make your first dollar.
Focus on making your business a real business. Bottom line: a real business isn’t real until you make your first dollar. You are not a stealth mode business either, because you don’t have a real business yet. That’s like saying “I’m a professional soccer player because I’m trying to join a soccer league”. Really, you haven’t even passed the tryouts yet.
4. Focus on not dying.
Another great strategy: at least focus on not dying. There are also thousands of ways to make money before your product is built. You do what you have to do because in the beginning, guess what your business plan is? It mostly consists of simply: not dying. No entrepreneur starts out on a straight path to growth. Most of the time you flop around for a couple of years trying to figure it out, then you grow.
5. Dream, but do it realistically.
If you just read #4 and thought “that sucks, and that’s not how facebook built their company”, you’re not being honest with yourself about your business, or what it’s going to take to build a company. Perhaps you’ve been watching too much of Bravo’s new startup series, and your expectations are out of whack.
I take that back, that strategy might work for you. Believing you’re a real company without ever making a dollar, if you’re someone who just wants to build something and hope it goes viral by a magic fairy.
6. And lastly, make decisions yourself.
If you ask someone who owns an incubator what you need, he’ll say “co-working space”. If you ask a business plan writer what you need, he’ll say “a business plan”. If you ask Brad Feld what you need, he’ll say “my books”. If you ask the SBDC what you need, they won’t say it….but you can bet they’re thinking “for you to sit in my office for 3 more hours because I need to meet my quota for our grants”.
There is nothing wrong with this, after all…every value comes at a cost. The world gives, the world takes. But take advice with caution, because what you really need is specific to your business and yourself. At the end of the day, you’re supposed to be learning how to think for your company. Not looking for others to tell you what to think about your company.
Advice is a source of inspiration and refreshing perspectives, nothing more (see #1). So is this article.