Startups Are Hard

Here is a great section of a post from the CEO of FAB

“There’s no way around it, startups are hard. And it’s supposed to be that way. You are trying to do things that no one has ever done before. You are trying to disrupt markets and incumbents. You are trying to change consumer behavior. You are  trying to move your employees out of their comfort zone. 

You are going to make mistakes. You are going to fail. That’s all part of the startup life.

The critical bit is to make sure that your entire team knows and internalizes that startups are supposed to be hard. This is especially difficult when your company is flush with cash and in growth mode. How do you explain to your team that you’ve got $xx millions (or $xxx millions) in the bank but their job is supposed to be hard every day? How do you get your team to spend every dollar like it’s their last and to be obsessively paranoid of complacency?

By no means have I fully figured this one out yet. The natural default for me and for many CEOs is to try to inspire the team each day and focus on the wins, not the losses.

Here are some ways I’ve been trying to keep our team at Fab focused on the “it’s supposed to be hard” bit:

  1. Say it. Say it again. And again and again. In talk after talk I keep reiterating the phrase, “Startups are hard; they are supposed to be hard.” The point is to acknowledge and keep hammering home this thought as a tone-setter.
  2. Celebrate challenges as much as successes. In 2014 I’m instituting a monthly “what sucked this month” review. The point is not to get people down on the business but rather to make sure we stop regularly and really talk through the weaknesses in the business and then make sure we have proper resources focused on improvement.  
  3. Make uncomfortable the new comfortable. Push people out of their comfort zone. Don’t allow group think to get in the way of pushing forward. Inertia is a company’s biggest enemy. 
  4. Measure vs. plan — using the right metrics. It’s too easy when you are growing to just ignore the plan in the name of growth or to focus on the top line instead of the bottom line. It is critical to measure regularly vs. plan and to make sure you are keeping score on the metrics most critical to long-term viability and value creation.”

By Jason Goldberg, Founder & CEO of FAB. 

Quote

“The most beautiful people to be around are the ones with open minds. The ones who will tell you that sorrow is just as wonderful as bliss and that at any moment, you can be whoever you want to be and love whoever and whatever you want to love – whether it is religion or the same sex. I sit at bars and I linger in coffee shops just to find these kind of people…Without knowing it, they are slowing changing the world.”

Product-Customer Fit

In the odyssey of your startup, numerous factors will undoubtedly come into play. The list can be endless, and more than often, beyond inundating. It’s easy to be assailed with idle coffee meetings, vain pitches at meetups, foolish preparations for these pitches, despairingly gauging the fundraising climate, or naively worrying about extraneous factors that are just beyond your control.

Your time is limited. It’s vital for you to move swiftly, to test the riskiest assumptions you’re making, and compulsively validate whether your hypothesis even has legs. The best entrepreneurs have this uncanny ability to sift through the noise and discern for something I call the “limiting-factor” tasks. The term was inspired from my exposure to the hard-sciences in undergrad, and its definition can best be understood as the reactant in a chemical reaction that limits the amount of product that can be formed.

Within the chaotic, vast sphere of your startup, there will be certain undertakings that you just can’t move forward without, and they ultimately “limit” your ability to progress. These tasks are subjective and unique to each; it’s up to you to be due diligent. Competition is unforgiving in today’s brisk tech cycles, and you absolutely can’t afford for your team to work on something that no one will use, or on tasks that yield only marginal returns.

There is a popularized term in our industry that stems from the classic lean-startup school of thought called “Product-Market” fit. I personally think this term’s scope is a bit opaque, and prefer the word “Product-Customer” fit. I’ve opted for this because it places a substantial, dramatic focus on the only variable that truly matters — your customers.

The decisive limiting-factor is reaching this celestial destination of “Product-Customer” fit. If you’re not there, get there. You must ask the question– does this product I’m creating solve the problem of my customers? Do they like it? Even better, are they willing to pay for it? If not, you need to iterate on your product and fit it around your customers. Some of the best insight I can give is to get your customers involved as soon as possible.

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else”

Lovaash has two customers. First, we have Creatives. Some of the best painters, artisans, calligraphers, typographers, and cartographers from all over the world are creating Lovaash Online Stores by the hundreds every week in our private alpha. Second, we have consumers who own spaces– home-owners in the outskirts of cities, students with dorms, young professionals across San Francisco and Miami, owners of Italian to Korean restaurants, interior designers liable to enterprise clientele, and the list goes on.

My team and I are creating technology to solve the issues in selling the work of our Creatives through a SaaS (Software-as-Service) dashboard that manages transactions, real-time promotions, analytics, and more. And as a Consumer, you’ll be able to find exactly what you want through the lens of your personal space. The solution will be a 2-sided global marketplace with its foundation etched in inspiration, simplicity, and affordability.

Lovaash is where you “Enhance your Space”.

Video on Instagram

I covered this on Launch Ticker when it first came out. It was my first experience witnessing the introduction of new, scalable technology that would have an immediate affect on millions of people within minutes. It felt like society really did take a small step forward.