#12 My Top 5 Startup Principles (Developed through constant failure)

I recently finished up a quick succession of Q&A panels and workshops. I found myself repeating myself several times so here's me writing it down

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As I stated in the blurb, I found myself saying the same thing many times this week, so here’s me saying it once and having a record. Would love your thoughts on this, if you found this valuable let me know and I’ll do quickfire thoughts like this again.

  1. The 1-hour Validations

    I hate waiting. I don’t like not knowing if what I’m working on is going to work. The other day, my developer told me he doesn’t like the idea of working on code that’s never going to hit the light of day. Whilst I understand the sentiment, you should be prepared for 80% of your work to never hit the light of day because you don’t know if that’s what people want. However, with that said, you should strive to know if you’re going to fail ASAP. If I have an idea, I want to prove to myself that it’s a bad idea as soon as possible - so I can move on with my life with zero regrets.

    I love the mental model of constantly reducing the time you allow yourself for specific goals. For example, what would happen if you took your 10-year goals and tried to accomplish them in 5 years, 1 year or even tomorrow - what could you do? Stretching your brain this way can create some amazing innovations.

    In a similar way, why not write down your business goals for 1 year, then ideate solutions to take them to happen. Then reduce the time to 1 month; what can you do to move the needle? Keep doing this until you hit 1 hour.

    What can you do in 1 hour to move the needle on your business idea and gain significant conviction to either pursue it or give up on it?

    There are exceptions but for the most part, you can validate this fairly quickly. Here are a few ideas:

    • Make a sales deck and email 100 people on your contact list

    • Make a quick landing page and get pre-sign ups with a viral loop

    • Put up an e-commerce storefront via Shopify and start marketing on Facebook groups

  2. Sales validate Solutions, Surveys/Interviews validate problems

    I’m sorry but you can’t survey or interview your way to product-market fit or validation for your solution. You can use those tools to see if their problem exists and the extent of the problem. However, the only real way to get validation on a solution is to get users and even better, get sales. If they pay/use the product and love it, you’ve validated a solution. If they pay or you find some economic model that allows you to operate profitably - you have product-market fit.

  3. Don’t fall in love with your product, fall in love with your customers/problem

    I meet way too many entrepreneurs that love their product. Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be excited and passionate about your product but there are far too many people who are blinded by their product. I often ask them - “How would you feel if you had to kill your product tomorrow and start from scratch with a new angle that your customer really wants”. If they are not willing to do that, then I don’t know if they have what it takes.

    You need to go find a deep, painful problem for a customer set that you care about. If you can’t express your problem properly and with great detail - you need to go back to the drawing board. Fall in love with that and do what it takes to solve it. If that means killing your product and building something they really want - then so be it. I will kill my product and move on instantly if that helps my customers and audience.

  4. Effective Launches: Product <> Distribution <> Brand

    This is how I think about launching something. There are 3 things that I need to have a successful launch.

    • Product: Something to sell

    • Distribution: Channel(s) that I can use to get the word out about the product

    • Brand: Reputation and Clout to create trust with the audience

    Great product, great distribution and a great brand is a recipe for success. Now, what happens if you don’t have this? Well, this is what I use partnerships for. You build 1 of the 3 parts of this triangle and partner up for the other 2.

    For example, a while back I was working on an AI & Entrepreneurship program. I worked with Softbank for brand and NewCampus/Corporate Gurukul for distribution that had 50,000 students on their database. This makes the entire launch super quick and easy.

    If you’re building a product, who could you work with for brand and distribution to launch quickly?

  5. Marketing Outcomes over Processes

    Processes aren’t always selling points. (I’m careful this point because there are exceptions to this where we see premium brands sell better because of ‘organic’, ‘carbon neutral’, ‘farm to table’ labels. In this case, the process does help with the sales process)

    For the most part, people don’t care how you’re delivering value, more than you are delivering value and what the outcome is for them. If you’re selling a weight loss program - what you’re selling them is the outcome. If you’re selling education - it’s the prospect of a better job, a toy - the smile on their child’s face. You get them interested and sell them on the outcome and the process helps alleviate any objections or barriers they may have for buying.

    If you start marketing in this manner, you’ll see a huge improvement.

That’s it from me. Ended up being a little longer than expected but hopefully, it was helpful. Once again, would love for you to share with others and give me your opinions too.

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