Entrepreneurship is such a tough game. I have nothing but the utmost respect for people that come up with an idea and then turn it into something. But, one of the really hard things for entrepreneurs to do is raise money and stay focused.
Let me explain.
When you go out to raise money from a venture capitalist, you need to sell them on your vision. What’s the world going to look like when your company is successful? You do a deck and take the VC to the mountaintop and hope they see the vision too.
When a VC is listening to a pitch, a lot of the questions might be around that vision.
However, once you get the funding you need to keep your business extremely tight and what the Techstars folks call “pointy”. You might have a vision but in order to get there, you have to distil your business down to the one simple element that you can execute on.
Think of a broad war. The squadron commander and their team only worry about what they are doing. If they worry about the stuff the generals are thinking about then they surely will get beaten. Same goes with startups at early, early stages. The game is not to win a war. The game is just to get to Series A.
Suppose you are a startup that wants to create something that could be applied to any urban area in the entire world. If you are tight and pointy, you’d focus on one city. Initially, you might even focus on one neighborhood in that city. In NYC you might just focus on Brooklyn for example. Then, as you get feedback from customers and improve, you expand.
I totally get how excited entrepreneurs are about their business. If I am invested, I share in their excitement. But, to be big you have to do the small things really well. That means focusing on a tiny initial target market and dominating it.
I love the story from Brad Feld‘s book Do More Faster about SendGrid. Send Grid started with a guy creating an app for himself and he shared it with some friends. More and more friends used it and started giving him feedback. Boom, eight years later they filed for an IPO. It’s such a great story.
The startups that focus on doing the small things right and execute like heck around them survive.