This post is an attempt to explain this tweet and flesh out the five principles I mentioned in the tweet: Make stuff people want. Do the work. Build a system. Don’t be evil. Don’t give up.
Make stuff people want.
This one is from Paul Graham, the founder of the startup accelerator YCombinator. The original post is here. This is also the core of the lean startup movement.
It sounds easy enough: of course you should make something people want! What a silly principle. Yet, all too often people fall in the trap of instead building something they think people want – big difference!
For example, if you’re writing a business plan and have no finished product, haven’t talked to an actual customer and haven’t verified in some way that your idea actually works on a real market – then you’re building something you think people want – not something they actually want. The only way to make sure is to build something as early as possible and try to sell it.
Do the work.
This one comes from the book with the same name. It focuses on the challenge every day to get up and just do the work. There are so many things fighting for your attention. You will have to struggle extra hard with your startup as long is it doesn’t make money enough to support you (the wings are not in the air). Just like going to the gym it’s a question of self discipline to see results.
Every day is a fight for survival for your startup. Every day you must do the work.
Build a system.
A company is a value producing system that should run without its founders. The sooner you realize this the better. What does this mean? It is far too common for entrepreneurs to build their company around themselves. Without the founders everything fall to pieces.
Instead, you should identify the processes that makes your company tick and detach yourself from the every day work as much as possible, either through automation or through employing people to do the work for you. Your goal as a CEO is to make the company sellable. The way to it: build a system.
Don’t be evil.
Everyone in the web industry knows that this is the corporate mantra for Google. The source of the statement is Gmail-creator Paul Buchheit (who now also works for YCombinator). Keeping your conscience clean makes things so much easier, especially in the capitalism 2.0 world of social media and transparency. If you’re in it for the long run, be nice. Do you want to explain things like this to every potential customer, investor or employee? No, you don’t.
Don’t give up.
In the must-read book Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days Jessica Livingstone (co-founder of YCombinator – for some reason every wisdom about startups comes from this company) interviews a number of startup entrepreneurs. The one thing they all say is the most important in order to succeed is: persistence. Not giving up.
That’s it: Make stuff people want. Do the work. Build a system. Don’t be evil. Don’t give up. Follow these principles from the leading startup minds and your chances of success are greatly improved. Most important of all, though, is to actually get started and do it. What are you waiting for?
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