This time, I wanted to share with you a recurring topic we have come across in our conversations with both entrepreneurs and those responsible for acceleration and investment programs. It’s about lack of focus: one of the biggest startups mistakes.
If you have already been in contact with the entrepreneurial ecosystem, it is very possible that the word “focus” is familiar to you. It’s not strange to see it printed on posters, walls or in certain publications. Let’s see some examples of what this lack of focus translates into and the impact it has for startups.
Experiments … on a small scale
We all know that startups must experiment to validate their hypotheses and iterate to get a product that fits the market. Does “my target of users is 18 to 65 years old”, “let’s launch the product in several languages, we aim to international market”, or “let’s start with Android, iOS and the web” sound familiar to you?
Startups are good at experimenting on a small scale and validating one thing at a time, due to limited resources. Let’s make the most advantage of this. Let’s not get directed by fear of possible competition, or the loss of potential customers. We will not be successful by doing everything at once, but by doing things right.
Always think about the smallest scale that makes sense for your experiments. Don’t underestimate the cost of covering more than is necessary. A digital product, for example, must be designed and prepared in different ways for an 18-years-old than for a 65-years-old. The marketing campaigns themselves, the recruitment channels and the communication that you do will be different, so they will require more dedication. Launching a product on a larger scale will also mean higher costs for customer service, logistics, internationalization, etc.
In short, focus your experiments on a small scale and evolve from there.
Each stage has its own needs
When we get down to work we will realize that more and more requirements appear every day. Investors will ask us for growth, retention or monetization rates. We will realize that without more marketing we won’t get more users. We heard about pirate metrics (AARRR) and felt the need to improve all of them. The list is considerable, and it depends a lot on the type of startup.
But, as we discussed before, we play with limited resources. We cannot try to cover all of this at the same time. Trying to do so will waste valuable time and resources, as we will not be able to accomplish too many objectives effectively. In fact, it is more than proven that multitasking is not only not efficient, but it also slows us down.
That’s why it’s important to understand at all times what stage we are in and what our main objectives are. To focus and find the fastest and lowest cost way to achieve them, consolidate the result, and continue working from there.
A travel without direction is a nonsense
Mission and vision are more than catchy statements to attract attention to our website. They represent the strategic course to follow both in the short and long term. They are critical as they help us to maintain focus and make decisions much more effectively.
Of course, the path of a startup is marked by uncertainty. You must explore and patch or pivot as needed. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be clear about where you are heading to.
Take the time that is necessary, and the sooner the better, to define your mission and vision. Not only will it give you greater security when making decisions but it will also save you a lot of money and effort in tasks which aren’t aligned.
Although these points sound very obvious, experience tells us that chaos (apparently controlled) prevails on a daily basis over the focus. Especially in the early stages of startups, where it’s not uncommon to find entrepreneurs very focused on the idea or the product they want to achieve (the short term). But let’s remember that a startup is much more than an idea, and that we will succeed by doing things right, not (apparently) faster.
With this little post I hope I have encouraged you to, at least, reflect about these questions along your path to success. And above all, that they help you avoid some of the most frequent mistakes of startups (not all are funding problems).
As always, I encourage you to share your own experiences with the community! Especially mistakes and failures, since that’s where we can learn the most.