I had dinner with a friend last night who reminded me of a panel we attended together during business school. At the panel, a few very prominent VCs and entrepreneurs discussed what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, and their conclusion was that above all else one needed deep and unwavering passion and commitment to an idea.
I had an allergic reaction to that memory when he brought it up because it is counter to everything I believe. Unwavering commitment to an idea, in my opinion, is kryptonite to an entrepreneur. Building a company from the ground up is about testing every assumption and reacting as new information emerges. I learn something everyday about the industry, our customers and partners, the investors, my team, and myself. Being open to where we are wrong and adjusting is they key to nailing the right product, sales, and market strategy. This applies to the small details as well as to big strategy and product decisions. Find the truth rather than stick to your guns. Be passionate about building the right product or solving a problem, not about your idea or solution.
Put another way, a big advantages startups have over larger companies is adaptability. Shifting strategy for a big company is difficult and as a startup you need to embrace that advantage and quickly make the turns needed to find the right opportunity.
I often think of building a startup as a similar process to walking through a maze. At many points in the maze you can’t see across the bend and so you have to make decisions about what direction you want to go, but as soon as you hit a wall you have to react and try another path. If you have unwavering commitment to a path (or an idea), then you’ll keep hitting your head against a wall and never make progress.
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