The Forbes article Five Things I Learned From my Failed Startups by Vikram Joshi is well worth reviewing by founders of very early stage startups. Joshi also quotes a couple of sayings about failure that founders would do well to keep in mind:
Failure is not a failure unless you fail to learn something out of it.
The wise learn from their mistakes, but wiser people learn from the mistakes of others.
Here are his five tips, with my annotations:
1. Do Not Go Solo
This is good advice and advice I always give to solo founders: find a partner! See my post Starting with a co-founder.
2. Do Something That You Are Really Passionate About
Starting companies is very, very hard. Most companies fail. But if you do something you are passionate about then, as the Zen saying goes, “The journey will be the reward.”
3. Launch Beta Sooner Than You Think You Should
Too many engineers want their product to be perfect before they launch. But “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” The sooner you engage with the market, the better, even if your mode of engagement is just a couple of PowerPoint slides or a wireframe.
Get something out there. Learn from it. Improve it. Get it out there again. This is the loop you will live in so long as you find increasing engagement from your market!
4. Have A Balance When It Comes To Market Research
I agree with this, but I think you have to distinguish between primary market research and secondary. Too often founders rely on secondary market research – what they can find sitting in front of their laptop using Google, and primary market research – getting out of the office and talking to prospective customers. You should have at least a 5 to 1 if not a 10 to 1 ratio of primary to secondary market research.
5. Do Not Ask For Funding Too Soon
Too many founders get fixated on raising money rather than developing customers and building your product. Every minute you spend polishing your pitch deck is a minute not spent on talking to prospective customers. Before you think about a startup review your finances and make sure you have at least 6 months of living expenses in the bank, as it will be at least that long before you will either see revenue or raise capital. Stock up on Ramen noodles and peanut butter! Your goal should be to create such a buzz that money comes looking for you, not the reverse!
I will end with one last saying about startups. “If you fail, fail faster the next time!”