Being a startup founder or CEO comes with its own unique challenges. While some of the rules of play for other executive and leadership roles may apply, building a company from scratch and running it to viability demands a completely different skillset from carrying forward the existing success of an established company. As someone who's done it twice, I've learned that no two startups are alike. Every founder or CEO should ultimately find their own formula for success and tailor it to the business needs at hand. But there are three general rules that I've tried to stick to in getting a company off the ground.
- Identify your customer. From the very outset, invest the time to get to know their needs really well. Don't start building before you have a clear understanding of what they actually need. Once you have that understanding, then you can start to prototype solutions for those needs, and then test it to validate that you're onto the right need. This will either verify or reshape your vision, so it's crucial not to go too far too fast. With Taxi Magic, we started with a preconceived view of the customer and their needs, but built out the system before we realized that we had gaps in understanding those customers. We should've built small prototypes and built practically, faster - rather than scaling out to an answer without a lot of live feedback.
- Focus on talent. Recruit a great team that is focused on your vision. Hold a high bar for folks that you bring on, especially early on, as they'll set the tone and precedent for your business as it grows, and a lot of times those key people really make or break it. Select folks who can handle ambiguity, drive to clarity, move with urgency, and orient around results. Once you've curated that core team, it's your job as a leader to get them excited about that vision.
- Create an environment for success. Most people think about environment as the physical workplace and culture. Those are certainly critical, and there are a multitude of elements that factor into whether or not your startup is successful. But in fact the most important element for success (and precursor to the other two) is funding. You can't build your vision if you don't have the capital to do so. So raise money -- more than you think you could possibly need. My rule of thumb is, whatever you think is enough, raise 30-100% more.
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