If you are not making mistakes as an entrepreneur, then your business is probably in big trouble. After all, innovation is about experimentation – which is fraught with risk.
The key, of course, is learning from your inevitable mistakes.
So what are some lessons for entrepreneurs to keep in mind? Well, I reached out to a variety of successful founders – and here’s what they had to say:
Ajay Patel, Founder & CEO, HighQ
“It’s easy to confuse a good idea for a good business. Ideas are a dime a dozen. What turns a great idea into a great business is execution, and a fundamental stage of execution is market research. Skipping research, ignoring the results or forecasting off of inaccurate data can quickly lead to failure. There’s wide scope for mistakes. You may have a great idea but the market may not be quite ready. Or maybe your idea isn’t as original as you thought. The courage to pivot and evolve your idea as market conditions evolve is endemic of execution. Don’t think an idea is all you need to build a viable business. And if you do, at least test that assertion with robust and independent research.”
Jeff Chen, Cofounder & CEO, Joyride
“Don’t just copy the latest fad. Think bigger and differentiate. One of the biggest mistakes is chasing after the product mechanic rather than the reason for the product. In other words, the model that worked for movies might not work for books or that photo-sharing app might not work as a video sharing app. You cannot assume that a certain model will work across different industries or modes. First, find out what consumers truly need, then figure out the optimal way to deliver it to them. Too many startups try to force a model to fit the supposed ‘need’. Before you do anything, it’s essential to find out if consumers actually want your product or service.”
Marius Moscovici, Founder & CEO, Metric Insights
Matt Finneran, Cofounder, Sparkcentral
“We’re always on the lookout for great people and it’s amazing how hard it is to determine if someone is a hard worker and has talent. One of the best ways we’ve learned about people is from their references, whether it’s an internal reference (which is always the best) or by checking their given references. A few times, we were deceived by applicants listing friends as co-workers, but it was always a red flag when they couldn’t list their former employer, especially their boss. Reputation is all you have, and if a previous employer can’t be used as a reference then I usually have to assume something negative. Contrast that with an applicant whose former boss says things like ‘Hire them immediately, I wish they were still here!’ and you begin to see the real winners rise to the top.”
Jordan Wright, Cofounder & CEO, Comfy
“One of the biggest problems I see startups encounter is attempting to scale before they are really solving a problem or before they achieve product-market fit. People talk a lot about ‘growth hacking’, but growth hacking a product that isn’t ready is very difficult and can do serious damage to your brand. Key performance indicators (KPIs) surrounding the most important conversions in our product help me know when we have achieved and are improving our product-market fit. KPIs help me answer one important question: ‘Is our product completing the job we believe our consumers are hiring it to do?’ So many companies try to scale before they know the answer to this important question – and it burns them.”