The most accurate description I’ve read about startup life is:
“It feels like you’re jumping off a cliff and building an airplane on the way down.”
As an entrepreneur, you have some direction (in most cases, spiraling downward) and an idea for what you need to do, but most of your strategy on how to do it is concocted during the journey. This is a novel concept for professionals from the corporate world, who are all too familiar with order.
I was recently at a dinner where guest speaker and entrepreneur-turned-investor (“ETIs” as I like to call them), Gil Beyda, discussed the difference between two types of people. He illustrated how there are some people who go into work every day expecting everything to work, and some people who go into work every day expecting nothing to work.
The former expect that the internet will certainly be up for the video meeting. The product will certainly work during the demo. The debit card will certainly be accepted for the client lunch.
These people require the certainty of an established business.
Upstarters are the total opposite. They expect their train to be delayed on the way to the investor meeting. They know their product will crash right before the conference. They know they are the pilot of a plane with an unassembled engine. And they prepare accordingly.
Startups are in the lean era and today it’s all about validated learning. Efficient entrepreneurs hypothesize, test, measure, and learn. They don’t have the fortune of sound information to simply make decisions definitively, because turning back is too costly. Entrepreneurs must, to a large extent, be reactive.
And that gets a lot of people uncomfortable.
At Hublished, we are constantly asked questions about our user acquisition strategy. Which market vertical are we going to penetrate? What sales pitch will we use? What channels will we explore? What features will we highlight?
And to many a person’s dismay, we are happy to say “We don’t yet know.”
I like to think that a hypothesis is nothing more than a minimum viable guess. Sure, we need some basis, our hypothesis, for which to move forward. But the second we are introduced to information that shows our hypothesis is flawed, we are ready – better, ecstatic – to change direction.
Entrepreneurs and product developers cannot afford to box themselves into a decision they didn’t need to make. There is nothing wrong with launching with only hypotheses, and then reacting quickly to the market.
There is no valor in having an irreversible decision validated, when you could have learned the same information with just hypotheses. Uncertainty may make prospective investors and industry partners sweat, but it’s really the only way to be prepared, as odd as that sounds.
Growth hacking is as much about knowing what to do as it is knowing what not to do. I am happy to leave long-term decision-making to multi-nationals, and building airplanes without blueprints to startups.