Eight startup lessons you don’t hear very often

This morning everyone has been retweeting Slava Akhmechet’s 57 Startup Lessons. It’s a great list (although there are a couple of lessons I don’t agree with), but if you don’t have time to read through 57 lessons you can find my top eight here. I’ve picked the ones that a) resonate with me, and b) you might not have heard before.

  1. People: Your authority as CEO is earned. You start with a non-zero baseline. It grows if you have victories and dwindles if you don’t. Don’t try to use authority you didn’t earn.
  2. Fundraising: If you haven’t earned people’s respect yet, fundraising on traction is an order of magnitude easier than fundraising on a story. If you have to raise on a story but don’t have the reputation, something’s wrong.
  3. Markets: Starting with the right idea matters. Empirically, you can only pivot so far.
  4. Markets: Pick new ideas because they’ve been made possible by other social or technological change. Get on the train as early as possible, but make sure the technology is there to make the product be enough better that it matters.
  5. Products: Product sense is everything. Learn it as quickly as you can. Being good at engineering has nothing to do with being good at product management.
  6. Products: Build a product people want to buy in spite of rough edges, not because there are no rough edges. The former is pleasant and highly paid, the latter is unpleasant and takes forever.
  7. Marketing: Don’t say things if your competitors can’t say the opposite. For example, your competitors can’t say their product is slow, so saying yours is fast is sloppy marketing. On the other hand, your competitors can say their software is for Python programmers, so saying yours is for Ruby programmers is good marketing. Apple can get away with breaking this rule, you can’t.
  8. Sales: Qualify ruthlessly. Spending time with a user who’s unlikely to buy is equivalent to doing no work at all.