We are big believers in focus. As one serial entrepreneur we know is fond of saying, you can’t get anywhere by trying to “boil the ocean.” That is, if you try to do too much too fast you will fail. At the same time, one of our recent blogs explored the notion of luck. It highlights that a combination of mindfulness and directed energy can increase some types of luck to put your startup in a better position for success. Exploration is a key element of this part of the journey. So when do you explore and consider many alternative directions? When do you zero in on something and doggedly pursue it? How can you stay focused, without being too closed-minded to miss opportunities? This is a very delicate balance, and we thought a blog on the topic might be helpful.
Many of us are familiar with some version of this phrase that we’ve quoted from Pippin, The Musical. The idea is that if one is born lucky, they can acquire “smartness” through effort, over time. If one is born smart, that’s great—but you may never acquire luck. Of course, if you were born NFL Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, arguably you have the best of both worlds.
There is some bit of luck in avoiding hidden debts. Missing icebergs (or “debtbergs”) is not justabout navigation. Luck, fortune, and icebergs are inextricably linked. We thought we would devote this blog to a richer exploration of luck in the entrepreneurial world.
In our last blogpost, we discussed the biggest debtbergs in the Growth stage. This blogpost is focused on the Scaling stage. The startup is selling something. It is moving to a growing venture in terms of products, customers, and employees. It may have the opportunity to get more significant funding through angel groups, and perhaps even A-round funding with venture capital investors. Significant investments in product development and support, marketing, and sales may follow. It likely now has a board of directors as well as one or more advisory boards. It is trying to accomplish extraordinary growth, or become a “Gazelle” (check the glossary in the book to find out more). Scaling requires moving from experiments to having known processes to escalate sales. Once again, the biggest challenges change across our Oceans of debtbergs…
Our goal in The Titanic Effect: Successfully Navigating the Uncertainties that Sink Most Startups is to help startups steer around hidden debts, or debtbergs, on their path to success. These debtbergs arise because there are decisions startups have to make where the best possible path is uncertain. And, the consequences of these choices are like icebergs in that they are only partially visible. In the book, we detail 33 different debtbergs a startup might encounter, across the four Oceans of Human, Marketing, Technical and Strategy choices. As we’ve started using these materials with different audiences, we’ve recognized that the biggest, most dangerous debtbergs vary based on the stage of the startup. So, this blogpost and the next three detail the biggest debtbergs to manage at each stage of a startup. Check out the biggest debtbergs at the Pre-Revenue stage…
We’ve all heard the phrase, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” But after reviewing several dozen startup updates and seeing blogpost after blogpost with lists of metrics, it feels like a founder could spend a significant amount of time just compiling and tracking metrics. Every investor has their favorite metric. So, many startups end up monitoring nearly everything. Or, the opposite – monitoring nothing.
“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower
How many times have you heard the statement, “We need a road map to make sure we are headed in the right direction?” In fact, sometimes the business plan is described as “the road map” for the buddingstartup. Unfortunately, the road map as a metaphor prompts all the wrong associations for even the most promisingnew startup. Why?