Lessons from a failed startup
Unless someone cares, don't waste your time
In failing to build a company, I have learned many things. Core to all of them is that a company is not a product. Ideas change, products change, people change. We “pivot”, rapidly, relentlessly, sometimes ruthlessly.
Managed well, change is a catalyst. Managed badly, it can be catastrophic.
In this series, I try to explain the various ways in which I failed to understand this, and how I would endeavour to do better next time. You may notice that the style of these posts is more instructive than usual. Remember that these are mostly addressed to my future self, and as such, I am telling myself what to do; you, my dear original thinker, can do whatever you want.
I write software, and I thoroughly enjoy it.
Despite reading a lot of books along the lines of The Lean Startup, I thought that in my role in my company, I’d mostly be writing software.
This was, in hindsight, quite foolish.
Until you grok your potential customers, you don’t need any software.
Go out and talk to people. Understand their woes. Figure out what keeps them late in the office. Ask them what happened to cause their latest catastrophe, and help them conduct a root-cause analysis to truly get to the point.
Be generous with your time.
And if you can’t get in the door, that’s one more reason why you don’t need to write any code yet.
I’m finding this hard to write. I don’t want to talk to people, I want to code!
But code is not the end, it’s the means.
More in the series
- Focus on the problem, not the solution
- If the company goals change, the company should probably change too
- "Do research" is not a corporate strategy
- Your corporate values transcend your product vision
- Trust your gut, understand your heart, and open your mind
- Go to therapy with your co-founders
- Explore the terrain first
- Unless someone cares, don't waste your time
- Code is a liability; ship without coding, if possible
- Do less, and do it better
- Agile methods are tools to try more ideas in less time
- Until you have traction, money is a trap
- If you don’t know how to do it, that’s your biggest problem
- Roles can be fluid, but they must be defined
- Camaraderie is helpful, but no substitute for working together
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