What is the best advice for a young, first-time startup CEO? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Jay Winder, CEO of MakeLeaps, on Quora:

There's one core idea that will impact every aspect of your startup as you make forward progress.

De-link your ego from your startup. To go Fight Club for a moment: You are not your ideas.

Strong ideas loosely held is the optimal mode of thinking at a startup (and in life).

You should realize that you are not a perfect oracle. At any time, you likely have fundamental misunderstandings about many aspects of your startup.

Steve Jobs argued for months against the idea of allowing external developers to make apps for the iPhone. If Steve Jobs can be wrong about something so fundamental, so can you.

The extent that you're able to drop your ego and be open to being wrong is the extent to which you'll be able to resolve your misunderstandings, and approach a better understanding of how things actually are.

To illustrate this in a story: Let's say you work part time at a souvenir shop at a large city somewhere in America.

You notice that every day, large groups of Japanese people always purchase chocolates. Day in, day out, you notice chocolate is the most popular item for Japanese people.

This gives you an idea! Japanese people clearly must love chocolate. You find a wholesale chocolate manufacturer, purchase $5,000 of chocolate and you spend 6 months designing your new product: Japan themed chocolate.

Your new line of chocolate goods have pictures of famous Japanese landmarks, like Mount Fuji, and Kyoto.

It's a total, unmitigated failure. Not a single Japanese person buys the chocolates. You lose 6 months and all the money you spent.


If you had actively sought views potentially opposing your idea, you would have discovered that traveling Japanese people often purchase souvenirs overseas for the purpose of gifting them to their friends and people in their office.

Thus, these souvenirs need to be a representation of their trip overseas, rather than "Japan themed."

The way you ask these questions then, of course becomes very important.

If you ask some Japanese people, "Do you like chocolate?" this would always result in a yes, giving you false signal about your idea.

If you asked, "Why are you buying chocolate?" this would have allowed you to understand the buying motivations of your potential future customer.

Be open to always being completely wrong about everything, because statistically, you probably are.

The more you drop your ego and earnestly seek out views counter to your current perspective, the better you'll be able to understand how things are, and the better decisions you'll be able to make about everything in your startup.

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