Startup ideas are not up-and-running businesses yet

Two weeks ago I volunteered to judge a live startup pitch day with 23 undergraduate presenters at a major university in the Dallas area.

Seven of the 23 startup pitches were already micro-businesses run by these students (or were very close to launching).

The pitches about actual startups sounded much different than those by their student peers with “maybe-someday” ideas.

The presenters with actual businesses:

  • Were clearer about the main problem from their customer’s point of view
  • Were more confident in their presentations
  • Were much credible with actual traction results
  • Were more realistic about the challenges of creating their business
  • Had overcome some roadblocks and done a few hard things
  • Were personally connected to why their startup needed to exist

Several of these presentations were much better than startup pitches by older experienced entrepreneurs.

How many of these will become real businesses that grow?

A few.

What’s the difference between an “idea for a business” and a startup with a live product and actual customers?

A lot.

There is a night and day difference between
1) an enthusiastic startup idea, and
2) an up-and-running business with actual paying customers, employees with payroll and a way to consistently deliver value.

This is the essence of the product-market fit distinction as a dividing line between startup ideas and startups with proven potential.

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