How A Scaled Up Saas Business Is Never Exactly What The Founder Envisioned When They Started It

What did you think your software business was going to be when you started it? Is that actually what it is now?

I ask this question of software company founders I talk to every week who have up-and-running SaaS businesses with $2M or $20M in revenue.

Most of these founders will take a deep breath before they answer me.

“Well, No. I really thought the business was going to be (this) when I had the idea and got started, but after us a few years we found a better business, which is what we are doing now.”

How they started is not where they ended up.

I’m still waiting for someone to tell me that what their business is now “at scale” is exactly what they envisioned when they got started.

That makes sense, of course. Startups are experiments and lessons are always learned about products, customers, problems, pricing, sales channels, and more.

The founders are generally in the same areas too: similar problem space, same general market, or similar product features. But much more focused now.

The lesson for new entrepreneurs isn’t that minor adjustments or major pivots are inevitable.

It’s this: WHAT YOUR STARTUP IS NOW IS NOT LIKELY TO BE WHAT IT IS THAT ACTUALLY SCALES UP.

All that startup confidence and effort to build something, ship it, and declare yourself in your market isn’t an end in itself.

That startup pain and suffering for a year or two or three is to GET ON THE FIELD AND FIND WHERE THE VALUABLE BUSINESS REALLY IS.

What you think your startup is a very good guess that is worth testing.

So the goal isn’t to be 100% right about your initial startup idea.

It’s to get on the field with real effort, real customers, real revenues, real conversations, and real competitors to see what actually works or doesn’t and FIND YOUR REAL BUSINESS.

You learn what your scalable business is by getting in the market with paying customers, then by making adjustments or pivots when have learned enough to make a much better bet.

For example, I have been helping SaaS founders full-time with crazy effort for 7 years. I created Gregslist, consulted with 50 CEOs, mentored 2000+ founders, tried workshops and meetups, and many other things.

I thought I was onto something big several times, but it wasn’t until two years ago–5 years in–that I tried something new, got new results, tested it out, and shifted everything to Practical Founders. It’s working.

Practical Founders is going to “scale” for me, but I wouldn’t have found this specific audience with their specific problems whom I could serve amazingly unless I tried all those other things so earnestly.

That’s how almost all practical founder success stories sound in hindsight:

“I was right about the general direction and I’m glad I got in market and did it for a few years, but what my business is now is very different than it was at first.”

All in on what you are doing today, but open that some big things will be different when you grow up. Not easy.

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