My top list of advice founders never hear:
- Slow it down if you don’t have a great co-founder. We all get excited to “get going” with a start-up. But if your co-founder isn’t great, if they don’t have the right skills to complement yours, and/or if they aren’t committed enough … it won’t work out. More here: A Simple Commitment Test For You And Your Co-Founders | SaaStr
- The mentors and investors that give you the best advice often don’t sugarcoat it. You have to develop a thicker skin as a founder. Investors and “advisors” that want something from you will often tell you what you want to hear, or sugarcoat their advice. But successful advisors, mentors, and investors that just want you to succeed often don’t sugarcoat their advice. It can hurt a bit, but listen more to that advice.
- How badly do you want it? Committing for 10 years with a great co-founder is key. It’s not enough to see it. To want to “do a start-up”. To have a great idea. You have to want it so badly you will will it into existence. And then stay the course to grow it into something real. More here
- Many successful start-ups had $0 in revenue the first 2 years. How will you handle that? Tiago Paiva from Talkdesk, just valued at $10 billion, and I discuss below how the first 2 years he literally had to do any odd job he could get. Because they literally had $0 in revenue for the first 2 years. Watch it below. And only then, after two years of $0 in revenue … product-market fit. And then came hypergrowth. Mailchimp started off inside of an agency for years, too. What if your start-up has to start with $0 in revenue for the first 24 months? Or token revenue? Can you commit to that? More here: If You’re Going to Do a SaaS Start-Up … You Have to Give it 24 Months | SaaStr.
- Bad investors really can hurt you. How much value do VCs add? That’s an open question for the ages. But what is clear is a bad VC can seriously hurt your start-up. A bad VC will tell others not to invest. A bad VC will undermine your confidence. A bad VC will create a crisis of confidence in your syndicate. A bad VC will undermine the confidence of your VPs, when they don’t show up to the board meetings and/or undermine folks in public. I know you want that fancy brand, that investor that seems to be so cool, to have it all. But can you trust her/him? Start there.
- That VP that hasn’t leveled things up in 90 days? They never will. Almost every founder wants to give that VP that worked so hard to hire … more time. More time to increase sales. To get outbound going. To increase leads. To get more features built. To talk to more customers. But if they don’t in the first 30, 60, 90 days max … they never will. You have to move on. And a lot of your investors and board will tell you to give them more time. It won’t help. You will just waste more time, and hire mediocre folks under them. A bit more here.
- You can’t spend your way out of a tough patch. Yes, marketing costs go up as you scale, but that’s to support sales. Not to desperately hope a big spend will get you out of a hole. You also can’t just magically hire reps to get you out of a slow patch. Yes, you need reps to hit the plan, you need capacity. But they can’t manufacture sales just out of sheet headcount alone. If bookings decline, that’s a sign. A sign you have to fix product-market issues. Throwing what money you have left at it usually makes it just worse. What actually to do here.
Almost every important mistake I've made in the past 15+ years has been due to lowering the hire bar
Directly or indirectly, it leads to chaos, slowdown, doubt, and confusing inputs
— Jason ✨Be Kind✨ Lemkin (@jasonlk) July 11, 2022
A bit more here: The 10 Things I’d Tell My Younger CEO Self to Do Better Next Time | SaaStr and 10 Things Maybe Not to Do In The Earlyish Days | SaaStr
(note: an updated SaaStr Classic post)