This question originally appeared on Quora: What is the best advice for a young first-time startup CEO?
For you first-time non-technical founders:
Let me just start by saying, learn to deal with frustration. You’re in for a lot of it.
Let’s assume a couple of things. You know some programming basics, but not nearly enough to complete, or even contribute significantly to your project. You know just enough to communicate with who ever is helping you build the company tech. It could be a contractor, a co-founder, or an employee. Let’s say it’s an employee whom you’re paying.
From my first-time founder experiences, here are some tips I managed to pull together:
1) Multiply any deadline you have by 5 and that will give you an accurate time frame for completion. First-time founders tend to underestimate deadlines. Be realistic with the targets you set and stick to them. None of this, “Let’s get it built in four weeks, have 2000 customers three weeks after that, and VC funding two weeks after that.” Stop thinking you’ll get acquired in 12 months. You have to commit at least 3 years to this business.
2) Don’t get stuck in the “I can’t move forward without the tech” mentality.
Probably the worst thing to do. There is always something going on at a startup. Figure it out. You should be making calls, finding customers, user testing, validation, design, recruiting, and one million other things.
3) Just because you can’t see a fancy user interface doesn’t mean you should be worried. There is more to the tech than just the shiny landing page, but sometimes we non-technical people seem to forget that.
4) Don’t think you can do it all by yourself. “If I knew how to code I could have finished this by now.” You wouldn’t have, trust me.
5) Don’t force yourself into getting a co-founder when things get tough.
Forcefully looking for a co-founder because you’re stressed can put you in a tough position. You don’t want to make any serious decisions while under the gun; that’s how mistakes are made. #harveyspecter101.
6) Underpromise, overdeliver. It’s the mentality you should take when talking to venture capitalists.
7) Don’t be embarrassed about your MVP and postpone the launch. They say to ship your MVP as soon as possible, but you’re embarrassed to show what you’ve made to the world. Don’t be. Remember the saying “the early bird gets the worm”? Well, it’s true. The sooner you show your product to the outside word, the faster you can make changes to your business to suit what people want.
8) Iterate. Iterate. Iterate. Your first prototype will probably be wrong. Keep making changes to your product to find prominent market fit.
9) Stop thinking, “Once we build it, they will come.” Don’t expect users to flock to your tech because, you know, it’s your baby. You’re not the exception, you’re the rule. In this case, the rule is: 90% of startups fail. You have to work hard to succeed. There are no two ways about it.
10) Stop inflating user growth to make yourself feel better about your dismal efforts. “We had 100 people sign up in the first 10 minutes. All of them are my family and friends. But growth was amazing.”
11) Stop thinking, “Too many people are making the same thing, I should probably pivot.” At this point, you’ve probably hit your first roadblock. First-time founders get scared. It’s normal. But you have to keep going.
12) Don’t feel absolutely useless when the person you’re hiring can’t fix a bug. You think the end is near. Don’t panic.
There are about 1 million other things I could mention, but I think this is a nice list to begin with.
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