Stanford Starups held a great panel discussion last month where over 100 entrepreneurs had a chance to ask experienced entrepreneurs about various topics related to early stage ventures. The last question was a great one and got me thinking.
What’s the one advice you would give an entrepreneur?
Focus on a need you are passionate about and others care about
Building a startup is a long term commitment. Success doesn’t happen overnight. The average time for an exit is 8-10 years. You are likely to spend years trying to solve a need. Along the way you’ll experience ups and downs and days that you will question your decision. Every entrepreneur will tell you that doing a startup is like riding a roller-coaster. Experiencing the need first hand is an advantage. It will drive you forward in tough times, sometimes for the sole interest of solving your own need. You’ll also find it easier to define the need, frame it and articulate knowledge and passion that will convince employees, customers and investors. Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi started Dropbox because they were tired of emailing files to themselves to work from more than one computer.
If you are solving a need others care about, you’ll get their time of day. They are likely to look for a solution (google it, talk to friends about it etc.), test different solutions and engage/feedback, thus creating a community around it. How difficult is it to convince an over-sized person to try a new diet ?
I personally tried every email client out there, from Mailbox to Sunrise and Acompli. The reason – I was frustrated with the amount of time I spend reading and responding to emails.
In recent years I’ve seen many entrepreneurs working on needs they are passionate about. I’ve also met entrepreneurs trying to solve needs they identified and thought are a big pain point. The great ones are the ones that find great needs that they and others are passionate about. Transportation – Uber, staying in touch with remote friends – Skype/Tango/Facebook/Whatsapp, getting stuck in traffic – Waze.
I’ll summarize with a quote from Paul Graham, YC’s founder: “How do you find users to recruit manually? If you build something to solve your own problems, then you only have to find your peers, which is usually straightforward.”