Over the last decade I helped hundreds of young founders to build their first product or startup. Founders asked me in different situations what they should do, what they should focus on and I have seen a lot of young startups running in the wrong direction. The startup advice I gave them shifted over the years and evolved with the learnings and mistakes I made in my own projects and what I have seen in other startups. One year the focus of my advice was on shipping faster, one year the focus was on earning money as fast as possible.
With some emotional distance to the startup world my advice now got a lot shorter and more holistic:
Create value for your customers.
It's simple; maybe too simpel, but let me try to explain my thoughts.
The startup world could be very complex and often founders (including me) get lost in pseudo-work they think is right or what they see other startups around them doing: Building a nice landingpage for your product, pitching your startup at startup events, looking for investment,...
Doing this tasks isn't wrong, they are often necessary, but if the core of your work is doing this, you will fail eventually. In the shiny startup world people often forget the basics of a startup/business: having a product or service and charging your customers for using it.
Nearly all startup advice falls around this basic economic principle. You should talk to your customers as early as possible to find out what they need and you should build and ship a product fast to see early if you go in the right direction. Focussing on the value for your customer strengthens that advice and lets you see the overall picture.
Your customers are only willing to pay for your services/product if they see a value in it and if you solve their problems. Having this thinking as the basis of everything you do, naturally shifts your focus to the right tasks:
- You focus on the product that solves a problem for your customer and keep your customer in a tight feedback loop
- You try to get investment for your startup to solve the problem of your customer better or solve it for more customers
- You talk to your customer early and find ways to help them with the tools you have
- You spend less time on the best version of your startup logo and focus more on the tasks that matter for your company
Always stay clear of your goals and your customer and with every task you do think "how does this provide value to my customers that they are willing to pay for". With this thinking you can find your path through the startup jungle.