I mean.. who am I to be giving out advice – but after 4 years of startup life, we have learned a few things… the hard way. We have made these mistakes, more than once and right now, are our biggest regrets.
- Listen to customers: So simple. Yet, we fail to do it. Customer interviews with scripted questions (how much would you pay, how much of a pain is this, how many times do you do this every week) and pre-set metrics (if less than 70% users say they want it, we scrap it; if less than 50% say it’s a strong pain we scrap it;) should be the starting point. Even if you start with 10. If you can’t find 10 prospective customers to interview, then your target market is too small anyway. There’s no bigger dirtier lie than “build it and they will come”. They will not. We almost killed ours. Twice. Don’t kill your startup. You will be left with a useless piece of expensive software that you and your friends think is super cool. Trust me on this one.
- Keep your burn low: Even simpler! Don’t travel if you don’t have to. Don’t pay for the booth which you can ill-afford, don’t pay through your nose for the one “game changer star” employee – they won’t change anything except your runway, use hacks where you can, use free data even if it’s a few extra lines of code, cheap hosting whatever you can find. If you must spend money, let it be used for employee motivation and celebration.
- Take the tough decision: You need to fire your friend. A founding employee. You need to tell your co-founder to show up at work on time. Or that he’s being too egoistic and irrational. Or tell an employee you can’t give him vacation time. Or tell your investors how you failed and you want to pivot.. again. Don’t deliberate and cringe and withdraw. These talks are difficult for everyone and you only get slightly better with practice, but everyone is better off if you just get it out asap. Do it. Once you do it, you will have wished you had done it much earlier. Every. Damn. Time.