Before You Start-Up Ask Yourself This Question

“Is it REALLY worth building?”

Too few entrepreneurs really ask themselves this question before starting up their business. In some cases, entrepreneurs don’t even think to ask themselves the question. Sometimes, entrepreneurs just lie to themselves. Regardless of why entrepreneurs don’t ask the question it’s often a fatal mistake.

A lot of people are starting to get lost in the hype and theory behind Lean Startup. There’s a lot of talk (heck, I contribute to it!) and an equal amount of confusion. Truth is: You can’t really learn without trying (and often failing) yourself. So all the blog post writing in the world isn’t going to make a difference until you go out there and run into the wall yourself. I’d like to think the stuff that’s been written here and elsewhere about Lean Startup has made a difference – I know it has – and yet, people are still going out there and making the same mistakes that have been made by other entrepreneurs; over and over and over and over again.

So if I can boil it all down to one question, it’s this: “Is it REALLY worth building?”

* If you can’t answer that question at the outset, don’t build anything.

* If you can’t answer that question about a specific feature you want to build, don’t build it.

Just stop yourself. Right now.

The simple (although it’s insanely HARD TO DO!) act of stopping … thinking … pausing … will help. And most people should have enough self-control to pull this off. “Should I build this thing?” If the answer is “I don’t know”, then freaking stop.

How you go from “I don’t know” to “Hell yes!” is where Lean Startup becomes much harder for people to pull off. The premise and basics of it appear quite easy, but in practice, it’s a whole other story. And there are many reasons for that. Some of those are emotional and personal; after all, everyone is afraid of negative feedback, and everyone falls back to doing whatever they’re best at (and generally for a tech entrepreneur that’s not going out and talking to people, it’s coding.) Honestly, Lean Startup is just plain hard. It takes an inordinate amount of discipline. It’s not entirely clear how you move from “I don’t know” to “Hell yes!” and there’s a very good chance you’ll move from “I don’t know” to “Well, it sounds pretty reasonable” and convince yourself the rest of the way. Things aren’t perfectly black and white, but you owe it to yourself to be disciplined and take some time to be thoughtful about what you’re doing.

“Is it REALLY worth building?”

Cut everything out and ignore the noise. Just ask yourself this one question and be totally honest.

March 7, 2011 Posted in Customer Development by

  • http://twitter.com/justinbellinger Justin Bellinger

    Sometimes the interesting stuff happens when the answer is clearly no, on the evidence at hand, but entrepreneurs say screw it and do it anyway. I don’t think the answer is clear cut.

    On features, much more so, but not on general ideas that, on the face of it, some would walk away from.

  • http://www.instigatorblog.com Benjamin Yoskovitz

    Perhaps, and there’s always the big success stories where very little validation was done and then they become huge. Those are, of course, outliers so be careful about basing your potential success on those examples.

    But I do agree that you can’t ignore your gut completely…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72600771 Kenneth Seville

    Lean Startup and other methods of entrepreneurship may also be more applicable to different types of personalities. Seems like the Lean Startup method is more attractive to analytical types who need process to help them make decisions. Some people just don’t operate that way but still make great decisions based on intuition and leaps of faith. Could be just making sure your method of entrepreneurship is the right one for your style.

  • http://www.instigatorblog.com Benjamin Yoskovitz

    Ken – I don’t think you can take leaping and gut out of an entrepreneur, but I’d question the logic that there are people out there that consistently make great decisions just based on intuition and leaps of faith. I doubt any really successful start has been built that way, even if it’s portrayed that way in the media.

Ben Yoskovitz
I'm VP Product at GoInstant (acq. by Salesforce).

I'm also a Founding Partner at Year One Labs, an early stage accelerator in Montreal. Previously I founded Standout Jobs (and sold it).

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