What I wish I had known 10 years ago
Complexity is your enemy
- Uber: Solved an obvious problem — finding a cab during busy times. And they had a somewhat obvious viewpoint — why don’t we use these new iPhones to find out where the cars are at and get them here. Yes, it gets fairly intricate after that but the core premise was not that complicated to understand.
- Salesforce: When Marc Benioff met his technical co-founders (Parker Harris, Dave Moellenhoff and Frank Dominguez), he had a clear big problem — enterprise software should be more like Amazon.com — accessible as a website (yup) on the internet. And he was going to start by building a way for sales people to manage leads.
The world is full of complexity. The genius of these founders was to find a simple solution to complex problems.
If you saw all this complexity but couldn’t reduce it down to a simple one line problem statemnt — you may make a great economist but not a startup founder.
Market is your friend
- When a great team meets a lousy market, market wins.
- When a lousy team meets a great market, market wins.
- When a great team meets a great market, something special happens.
- Uber: If you look at the negative press and all the mistakes they made along the way, billions of dollars poured by American and foreign companies determined to slow its growth — and the company has survived and done well as a business primarily because the market needed this. Lives of millions of consumers (and drivers) are better because we have a solution to a key problem where we spend billions.
- Nutanix: This is a great team that met a great market. I know because I was lucky to be there from day 1. CIOs spend over hundred billion dollars a year on storage and compute infrastructure. When you build something better, you get to go from zero to a billion in revenue in less than 7 years.
You cannot build a billion dollar company in a million dollar market. No matter how much machine learning, cloud computing and clever UX and design we throw at it.
CEO: Can she raise capital? Can she sell? Can she hire?
All startups die when they run out of money.
All startups die when they run out of customers.
All startups die when they run out of engineers.
Vision & Mission
At the end of the day, you should do a startup only if it aligns better than your way of being.
People overestimate what you can do in a year and they underestimate what you can do in a decade, unless you’re (Apple CEO) Steve Jobs.