Even the best-funded startups are resource-constrained. Entrepreneurs have to make every expenditure count. It’s the nature of the game. Realizing this, the best founders don’t fixate on their lack of resources; instead, they become masters of resourcefulness. Rather than worry about what you can’t do, get creative and figure out a way to make things happen.
As frustrating as it may be, resourcefulness can work wonders for your startup. Being resource-constrained forces you to be more disciplined and build more intelligently. Some of the greatest public relations (PR) stunts ever devised resulted from a lack of resources. AirBnB made its first worldwide splash by renting the entire country of Liechtenstein for $70,000 a night.
One way that startups become resourceful is to partner with other organizations that already have what you need. To reach potential customers, for example, you can team up with an organization that already caters to your market. Hitch a ride with someone who’s already done the heavy lifting for you.
Don’t worry about your lack of resources. Instead, be creative and get resourceful.
When you have a new idea, you have to prove it’s feasible by constructing well thought-out experiments. You already know this. But testing a business idea is not the same as building a business. Inevitably, there comes a time when you need to either start building the business or nix the idea entirely. It’s easy to convince yourself that you need to do a few more tests before committing. Like it or not, you’re running out of runway and you need to take action one way or the other. Don’t let analysis cause paralysis.
How do you know when to take a stand and really commit? First, you have to be confident that you thoroughly understand the customers’ problem. You pass this test when you can predict specifically what customers will say or how they’ll react. Second, you must have an effective solution. Do customers agree that you solve their problems? There are a number of ways to gauge this, but cold hard cash speaks the loudest.
You will never be 100 percent certain of anything in a startup. The key is to balance action with experimentation in a way that keeps your business moving forward.
Hint: If you’ve been at this a while and you’re still not sure, you probably don’t have a feasible business idea. It should be obvious.
The foundation of The Agile Startup is that you don’t have all of the answers; you have to get them from the market. You’ll have hunches as to what the right answers are, but these are dangerous assumptions, not facts. You could be solving problems that no one cares about. The best way to learn the truth and convert assumptions into facts is to launch your company. Create a minimally viable product (MVP) that has the smallest feature set required to land your first customers. Your vision and early customer interviews will help you design the first version of the product. Then you can get an actual product in front of customers and react to their feedback.
Your intuition will tell you that everything needs to be perfect, so launching quickly will probably feel very wrong (at first). But your MVP is only the first release and not the ultimate vision. You will keep building, expanding, and developing your product. But now with customers in tow, you can be sure that you’re solving real customer problems. Don’t wait—the only way to learn is to launch.
It’s easy to overthink and overanalyze issues with your startup when there are so many unknowns. Projecting into the future, your plan highlights key risks and potential downsides that you might encounter over the next few years. Instead of worrying about things that might happen in the future, your overriding focus should be on taking the next step forward. There’s only one thing that you can plan on—nothing ever goes according to plan. The problems you worry about will rarely be the problems that you actually encounter. A common problem that web startups worry about, for example, is being able to scale to handle millions of users. Founders usually start worrying about this before they’ve landed their first user. As a result, the team spends weeks or months overbuilding to prepare for a flood of users. Only the flood never comes. Instead of being productive refining the app, learning from users, or addressing pressing issues, the team focused on solving a problem that wasn’t yet a problem. When you start worrying about the future, realize that it ain’t a problem ’til it’s a problem.
There are no easy answers in the startup game. There’s no immediate resolution or obvious solution. There’s no single idea that, when it dawns on you, will guarantee your victory. Capitalism is so efficient that obvious opportunities are exploited immediately. It will take years of blood, sweat, and tears to get your startup started. There’s no way around this. The only thing that’s going to change the world is you. It’s you getting the prototype ready at 4 A.M., four hours before a big demo. It’s you schlepping it across town to meet with customers and get feedback on your latest release. It’s you flying across the country to make that first big sale. It all comes down to you. But this is a good thing because all of the trials and tribulations you will go through are barriers to entry for prospective competitors. Starting businesses is a tough racket. It’s about making your own luck by putting in the long hours and moving forward one step at a time. Don’t look for a silver bullet because it doesn’t exist.