Recently a founder of an early stage startup asked me, “How do I convince my co-founder and team to be more data-driven?”
I think I surprised him with my answer, because I told him that the key issue wasn’t being more data-driven, it was being problem-driven. Or more specifically, problem-aligned.
Being data-driven (or at least data-informed as we say in Lean Analytics), is entirely dependent on whether you (read: startup founders) agree on the problem that you’re solving. If you can’t agree, data is meaningless.
Analytics is the measurement of movement towards business goals.
When speaking with this founder it was fairly clear to me that he and his co-founder didn’t actually agree on what they should be doing. That’s very common amongst founders, and it’s the biggest challenge you’ll face. Startups die regularly because of founder disagreement. You don’t always hear about it, but that’s what’s happening behind the scenes.
Once you’ve agreed on the key problem that you need to address (recognizing that there are always tons of issues at any given point in time, but focus is a must), the data flows naturally from there. It becomes much easier to figure out what to track when you know what problem you’re trying to solve.
If your co-founder doesn’t want to use data once you have agreement on the problem to focus on, you have another issue. In my opinion it’s one of intellectual honesty (or lack thereof). When someone doesn’t want to use data to know if they’re making progress towards business goals (read: solving problems) then they’re trying to insulate themselves from reality. That’s a dangerous place to be.
Get alignment on the key problems you need to solve before worrying about anything else. Make sure everyone at your startup is working together and feels responsible for solving the key problems you’ve agreed upon. Focusing on the data or “being data-driven” is a moot point if people aren’t working together on the right priorities.
Photo from Zach on Flickr.