To build, or not to build… that is the question.

As an entrepreneur, I have a lot of ideas. Some might be the next “great” thing and yet most, well they are probably just crap. And as an investor, I sit in a lot of meetings with early-stage companies who want to be convincing.

And yet, when it comes to informing the product roadmap or determining which half of the marketing budget is working, we are often at a loss. At least initially. And we are left making educated guesses.

And all of this while burning cash and time.

Of course, we’ve read the right books, and we have our Lean processes, but in practice, we have to decide quickly and iterate often. And getting a team to agree which version of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and which user/market inputs we start with can be a challenge. The same goes for our Business Model Canvas, as initial assumptions and iterations matter. A lot.

The real opportunity may just be in getting a group of unbiased users at scale. Yesterday.

So, to quote one of my old professors with crazy hair (mumbling over and over again), “what to do? … what to do? …” Continue reading “To build, or not to build… that is the question.”

Look right, go right. But be sure to steer left.

I have been riding motorcycles most of my life. And one of the early lessons I learned (painfully, I might add) was the idea that if you look right, you’ll go right. And if you look left, well you guessed it; you’ll go left.

Especially at highway speeds and around sharp corners.

What made this confusing at first was the idea of countersteering. A concept you’ll learn early in a motorcycle safety course if you are smart enough to take one.

Simply put, that’s the idea “to initiate a turn toward a given direction by momentarily steering counter to the desired direction (“steer left to turn right”). Thus, to negotiate a turn successfully, the combined center of mass of the rider and the single-track vehicle must first be leaned in the direction of the turn, and steering briefly in the opposite direction causes that lean.

Simple, right?

The first nickname my fellow riders gave me was “Kickstand”. However, shortly after that I became known by my club as “Road Rash” — Don’t ask.

I have often used these concepts in leadership and business because we go in the direction we look, and most often balance best and execute less painfully when we do so counterintuitively.

Simple examples include; “The way up, is the way down” (to quote Heraclitus as well as much of Jesus’ own teaching on humility vs. pride and the Kingdom of Heaven etc).

So, in life, in business, and in leadership; you’ll go in the direction you look. And it might just be a counterintuitive move to get there.

Let’s ride.

This post first published at medium.com/@mrjamesmartin

How to plan startup development with Happy Startup Canvas

In this article Dasha makes this statement;

Have you noticed that many young entrepreneurs make more efforts to attract investors than get users for their product? Don’t be like them. It sends the wrong message of you caring more about how much your startup makes than how you can help people to address their pain points.

I could not agree more.  It really comes down to how clearly  founders understand their customers and their pain. And their ‘soft’ or systemic thinking, which is needed to build a sustainable business. The author goes on to make a case for finding purpose, vision, and values for your startup.

She nailed it. Well worth the read.

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How To Convince Leaders To Avoid Business Plans When Validating New Ideas Strategyzer

In this article Kavi makes the following point;

A business plan assumes you know all the answers for a given idea. That’s hardly the case. Teams spend hours and hours compiling fantastic forecasts, and will spend tons of money hiring people to build technology or products that have no evidence to support their success. You can always make the numbers look good in a plan and argue how well it will work, but the plan will mean absolutely nothing without rigorous testing and evidence. It’s a fine line between vision and hallucination.

I can not tell you how many times I have made the same mistake. It is dangerous to believe your own bu!! $#it.  Experiments over experts.  Simple.

Obviously, I have never developed a business plan I did not initially believe in and I have quite the collection of spreadsheets that prove the author’s point.  Over time, I have learned to develop processes that allow our team to quickly validate and iterate on our ideas. Using tools like Strategyzer’s  Canvas is a big part of that process.  The quicker we can get an idea off the board and into a system that allows us to build on and test/validate the plan the better. And keeping it “cheap” just means we can invest in and diversify our portfolio of ideas on our way to innovation.

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The Ten Principles Of Building Great Products

Isn’t it common sense that to build a great company you need a great product? Yet, too many people think that throwing lots of money into marketing and PR will sell products. But if the product isn’t good, all the storytelling and partnerships in the world will only end in wasted time and money.

There is a lot of good advice here.  My favorite point is this; “Ask the customer if he or she would use your product not just if he or she could use it”.  Love it!

Ask the customer.  And ask often.

And consider this… When I was dating my wife I was given some incredible advice; someone told me that I should marry the woman I could not live without, not the one I could just live with. Twenty years later, I’m starting to get the point.

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