This five letter word will make your startup

No, M  O  N  E  Y  ain’t the word…

In my last post I wrote the key to a startup’s rapid growth is its capacity to exploit the success of a fast growing business. If you manage to ride the wave, you’ll grow fast! But a potential exploit can be really hard to identify and you’ll likely fail multiple times trying to pull one off. Exploits are easier said than done, and there’s actually something even more important you need to nail.

As a founder you’ll try just about anything at least once. You’re meeting potential partners, investors and employees, and you’re spending time with your mentors and advisors. Each of these touch points are invaluable sources of input to help you along the way and they bring many different opportunities to the table.

But here’s the type of thing I hear it time and time again…

“We have an opportunity to partner with [insert big potential partner] and while they’re not quite aligned with what we’re trying to do, they’re so huge it could be a game changer for us… So we’re gonna move forward with them.”

That five letter word is…  F  O  C  U  S

Aristotle Onassis
All successful founders I know have something very specific in common. They have an incredible capacity to focus on the right things.

It’s so easy to be distracted. If you’re not careful you can easily waste time, money and energy doing the wrong thing, and often it’s just too late to go back once you realize you weren’t focused.

Here are a few common “lack of focus” examples I see amongst founders all the time:
–       Doing shit that makes them look busy, but doesn’t have significant impact
–       Trying to do too many things instead of one thing really well
–       Getting things done themselves instead of taking time to build the team
–       Fundraising when it’s not time
–       Acquiring users when existing ones keep churning
–       Adding features instead of fixing or removing the ones they have
–       Having multiple audiences, rather than one very targeted
–       Paying attention to vanity metrics or too many metrics instead of core KPIs
–       Following the competition’s every move
–       Obsessing with getting up on TechCrunch (or other press)
–       Attending multiple networking events a week

Sure, money in the bank helps you do the things you want to do, but in the end, your biggest enemy is time [or lack thereof]. All the money in the world can’t buy you time, and since you have very little cash, you better find the best way to spend your time.

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