Don’t Beat Yourself

Doing a startup is hard.  It’s one of the hardest things anyone will ever attempt.  A few people come together and try to execute on a single idea that hopefully can become a multi-million dollar company.  It’s absolutely brutal and unforgiving.

No matter what you think, the incumbents aren’t going to roll over no matter how backward they seem to be.  Digital photography didn’t crush Kodak for many years.  Motorola, once an industry leader, had staying power for decades even with horrible decision making at the top.

For startups, the key is execution.  Part of great execution is not to make unforced errors.  Every startup makes mistakes, but the crucial thing is they don’t shoot themselves in the foot.  Play your strong hand, and keep playing it.

This thought occurred to me at the Chicago Techstars Demo Day.  One of the themes of Techstars is “be pointy”.    Not just pointy, but really pointy.  What this means is to focus on doing something just absolutely great.

The game in startups is survival and getting to the next level.  At the earliest stage, founders are often confronted with lots of choices.  It feels like the startup is Shamwow-is there anything it can’t do?  Stay intensely focused on doing one thing great.  Get to the next level.  As the company matures, it will get more breadth and more capital and then it can start to take on other projects.

Never ever beat yourself.