A startup founder I talked to this afternoon was in a bit of a panic.
“Is it going fast enough? Should we be doing different things?”
So I asked her what she had learned since the last time we talked a few months ago.
She rattled off at least 5 things that she tried and got clear feedback:
- They tried this and it didn’t work well.
- They tried this and it worked way better.
- These people like this but don’t like that.
- More people signed up. Some even paid for it.
- They signed a partnership agreement with a major association that will promote their app.
So what’s the problem?
“I don’t know. I feel kinda crazy.”
Nobody had told her the most important thing about starting ambitious startups that do new things:
Startups are experiments.
They aren’t normal businesses. Yet.
They are the opposite of all the big businesses we see every day.
It feels weird to run experiments and try stuff not knowing exactly what will work.
It feels disappointing to not have figured out the big puzzle in a few quick moves.
It feels crazy to have a clear vision about what the world could be like someday but it looks nothing like that today.
Startups are experiments trying to find a scalable business model, as Steve Blank (the grandfather of Lean Startup) says.
My version is this:
Startup entrepreneurs have to survive long enough to run enough experiments to find a scalable business.
This is really hard. Most new startups don’t make it.
Some run out of money and time.
Others can’t handle the “crazy” required at this phase.
Big companies can’t run as many crazy experiments (in public) as small entrepreneurs can. Live experiments are how startups win.
This entrepreneur is really onto something.
And she’s the “Tasmanian Devil” of running live experiments quickly, so she’s built for this.
Don’t panic and run more experiments faster!