Excellence in failure

It sounds stupid, right? That there can be anything of excellence in failing. Because failure is just that, right? Failure.

But look at it this way:

If you don’t fail in anything, you don’t try anything. You never follow your curiosity to explore new things and new ways of doing new things.

Having said that there are different kinds of failure.

The bad kind is the kind of failure, where you just make the same mistakes over and over either because you don’t learn anything from it or you simply just don’t care. Don’t ever follow that path.

The good part of failure is where you take on new things, challenges, projects, dive in from the deep end without having a clear idea about how things turn out. When you fail in some or all elements, you learn what NOT to do the next time. And you build both experience and confidence in taking the leap the next time.

And that is a good thing. Because it’s when you take the leap into something new that you have the greatest opportunity for actually effecting change and creating a positive impact. And if you’re driven by that kind of thing, it’s precisely these things that will give you the feeling that you and what you do matter.

Looking at it this way, failure in itself becomes a stepping stone to learn from to get better and to succeed in the end with whatever you’re looking to succeed with. It doesn’t become something to avoid at all costs, holding both you, your team and your company back.

(Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash)

An age perspective

“You’re just too old!”

I hear it thrown around every once in a while. Not specifically at me but more as a general shoutout to voice dissatisfaction that someone simply just not ‘get it’.

But does age really have anything to do with it?

Of course not.

In fact I think quite the opposite is at play;

Using the age argument is like arguing “This time is different” about why something that was a bust in the past will be a success now or “We have the best tech” as a reason for why you’re going to win whenever you enter the market:

High risk arguments with little validity in data.

So if the “You’re too old” argument is a flawed one in itself, what can we use the difference in age for in an extended startup team?

Well, for one youth can be put to superb use – if applied with clear thought – towards something that other people might not think is possible doing. Because the big advantage to a lack of experience is that you don’t know what you’re entering into, and thus you’re more open to risk.

Just think at the warm stove the first time you touched it, because you didn’t really believe that it was too hot. You only did that once, right? And got the hard earned experience.

Youth also typically have an abundance of energy of the sort that comes with eagerness to get out in the world and do something and – for most – a basic lack of other substantial obligations (family, kids, mortgages etc).

So what does age bring to the table that could be fruitful to the young ones?

First of all experience. Not of the kind that stops great ideas in their tracks but the kind that helps the young guns avoid the most obvious pitfalls, so they can stear clear and get a cleaner path towards ultimate success. A kind of a mentor that gently guides without taking over control in any sort of way.

Second, a shoulder to cry on. Now, I do not necessarily mean that literally, although if that’s what’s needed, so be it. No, I mean it more in the sense of someone to talk to and seek support at when the going gets rough, nothing works out, the roof is falling in and you’re just generally feeling like an utter failure.

Because that’s exactly what you need at that point; someone you can went to – and be heard, respected and understood by someone who has most likely been there her-/himself.

So think of these things the next time you feel the urge to claim that people who don’t get you are just “Too old”.

(Photo by Paolo Bendandion Unsplash)

The crisis test

Do customers flood you with support calls when your service is down? Or is it more or less quiet?

If it’s the latter, you have a problem. Because then all indications are that your product doesn’t really mean much to your customers; they can easily do without it. Maybe they don’t even realize it’s not there anymore.

If on the other hand it’s the first, congratulations. Not on having issues but in having created something important enough for customers to register when it’s not there anymore and even complain about.

It is probably one of the best indications that you have achieved Product-Market Fit.

Of course you can’t rest on the laurels when you’re in a situation, where you product is not performing as it should. But while your struggling to get it back up and working again at least take some comfort from the fact that you have achieved something:

You have created something that matters to someone outside your immediate circle of family and friends.

Congratulations.

And now get it back up and working again.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Your idea is not about you

One of the hardest things to do when you’re trying out an idea for a new venture is to separate your own feelings from the data.

After all, you probably came up with the idea because you thought it was great – perhaps even the greatest since sliced bread. And now you’re bringing it doubt and jeopardy by subjecting it to some sort of validation in the actual real world.

Frightening.

But fear not. Because chances are that not everything is wasted.

Your idea might still be great. But the present application of it is not the optimal one. Wouldn’t it then be rather nice to get that insight through data, so you can change the application and move towards the iteration that gives both you and your future customers most ‘bang for the buck’?

Of course it would.

But still; the idea of finding out that your initial idea wasn’t the optimal solution for your customers can hurt and sting. Just make sure you realize that that’s ok; it is all part of the plan.

After all it is about the application of the idea – not you as a person.

If you think it’s too much to deal with, and – more importantly – you’re in danger of closing your eyes to the data and just venture on with what you originally had in mind, consider getting some sort of outside help or perspective. Someone with a clean slate and a fresh pair of eyes, who can help put it to you more gently – but nonetheless put it to you.

It might prove to be one of the best investments, you can make.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Celebrate invalidation

There is one thing we often forget when we talk about validating ideas and business models for startups (or any other entity for that matter);

That it is also an accomplishment to invalidate something.

Usually we have a tendency to see things that didn’t work out as extremely wasteful from which only fractions can be saved for later use. If we’re lucky, that is.

Nothing could be more wrong.

Not only do we get immense learning when something doesn’t go according to plan. Here everything is only lost if we forget to put those learnings to good use the next time we venture into something new.

We also save precious time. Especially if we manage to get to the invalidation of an idea or a business model relatively quickly.

Why?

Because if we conclude that something is not worth doing, it’s better to get to that point sooner rather than later, so you don’t spend to much on something that is going nowhere.

Simple really.

Add to all of the above that one of the hardest things is to work diligently to try to destroy your own idea, before it gets to far, and the picture of invalidation as something to be celebrated every bit as much as successes are become that much clearer.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The daunting 1st prototype

The last week or so I have been busy building the first simple prototype of our upcoming app – a pre-MVP – for the MedTech startup, we’re working on getting off the ground. We will be getting it out there to get early feedback just after Christmas.

It is a daunting process.

Not only is it daunting to try to find the different pieces that when stitched together could form a somewhat crude but credible first go at what we will initially be trying to bring to market to create value for patients.

No, the most daunting part is that youre airing your idea(s) and inviting feedback from real potential users. And doing so full knowing that they can throw whatever they want in the form of feedback and criticism against you.

The prospects of getting feedback from people – or worse yet; hearing nothing at all because no-one will try it out – is so excruciating it can be a real challenge to push that ‘Publish’ button and get it out there.

But there is just no way around it;

If you never launch anything – not even a very crude, embarrasing prototype – you will by definition have failed completely.

So, reversely, by just getting something out there for people to provide feedback on is infinitely better and an infinitely greater step towards any kind of potential future success.

So just do it.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Grand ideas do matter

There seems to be a general misconception around the notion of ideas;

Since everybody can have them, what becomes important is whether you do something about them and – more importantly – how you do something about them.

Let me try to explain while I think this is inaccurate in a startup context:

Even if everybody can have an idea, and the important part is putting some work into making it happen, all ideas are not equal.

Ideas suffer from the same fatal flaw as the idea about agile work methods;

As long as you work in increments, it doesn’t matter what you work on, because you can always toss it quickly if it goes nowhere.

While that particular argument makes logic sense, in reality it becomes a license to not think too much about what you do and why, and I think that is a totally flawed approach.

The same goes for ideas; if the idea doesn’t matter, because you can always get a new one, you don’t make an effort into getting the original idea and the result risk becoming…meeh.

What you should do instead is work on the idea itself. Challenge your idea, make it sharper and ask some tough questions of it.

Make every effort you can to ensure that when you decide to put some real work into figuring out whether it’s desirable, feasible and viable, it is actually something really worth doing.

For this you have all the tools available for testing your assumptions and hypothesis. And instead of falling into the trap of thinking that those are the important tools and the original idea matter less, use it to spur your great idea on and tell yourself that no idea, you can come up with, is so grand and/or complex that there aren’t immediate ways to test it properly.

Be ambitious, for God’s sake, rather than lazy. That’s all I am saying.

And now go and look at those ideas of your again, challenge them and go as big as you can when you start testing them.

That’s how stars are born!

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

R.I.P. Quibi

A mere 6 months after launch and after burning through a good portion of the 1,75B USD it had raised from investors, the short form streaming platform Quibi is closing it’s doors.

Why? Because even if they were almost too big to fail they still managed to hit the one big pole, other entrepreneurs work their butts of to avoid ever getting into an infight with:

No market need.

Well done.

Quibi founders Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman even kind of admit so in their open farewell letter on Medium:

Quibi was a big idea and there was no one who wanted to make a success of it more than we did.

An open letter from Quibi. to the employees…

Exactly, you were pretty alone in thinking this would be a spectacular hit.

Ouch.

Quibi was an exercise in hybris. It was an exercise in the power of the idea alone; that if you build it, they will come.

Again from the open letter:

Although the circumstances were not right for Quibi to succeed as a standalone company, our team achieved much of what we set out to accomplish, and we are tremendously proud of the award-winning and innovative work that we have produced, both in terms of original content and the underlying technology platform. 

An open letter from Quibi. to the employees…

Customers never really came. And those that did ran away as soon as they were asked to pay for it.

It is easy to poke fun of a grand idea flawfully executed. But you could also feel enraged;

That while aspiring entrepreneurs with truly great ideas looking to solve real problems, investors throw money at something that is…well, you get it.

This is what happens when people who don’t “get it” think they can become successful entrepreneurs if they just throw enough money at it.

This is what happens when the smartest people in the room decide to show the world just how smart they really are.

As such Quibi should be a lesson to all with no respect for the grind of trying to build on an idea and achieve product-market fit while at the same time be conscious about ressources spend.

It won’t be. It will happen again. And again.

Because Quibi will be forgotten soon.

That’s how ‘big’ an idea it was.

(Photo: Screenshot)