Why Focus Is a Key Ingredient For Startup Success

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I have been an entrepreneur for the last 8 years. However, for the first time in my life, I’m a tech
startup founder. You would think that all these years would make it easier but they don’t.
In the past 16 weeks, I went through the most transformational experience in my life and it
taught me one thing the hard way: focus is the magic weapon to get you to truly grow your
company.
I was part of an acceleration program here in Silicon Valley. We had a tremendous number of
masterclasses with top CEOs, executives and investors from the valley, discussing all the
important aspects we were supposed to focus on like target addressable market, product
market fit and more.

Even though I have been running businesses and mentoring founders in
the past few years, I found myself for the first time absorbing the material instead of distributing
it. I simply was all over the place as I was supposed to work on everything yet not knowing
where to get started.
The consequence of this huge amount of information, mixed with the immediate need for
execution got us to rush into making decisions that we didn’t fully think through with my team. It
ended up costing us a lot of mistakes, some of which were fatal. Let me tell you how.

How we lost it all in a day

By the fourth week of the program, we had 8 different version of our pitch deck with three
different business models for three different markets. Meanwhile, we were going through due
diligence processes with investors we have been talking to for few weeks by that time.

On the eve of a final meeting with one of them, we changed the business model that we presented
them early in the process. Since we didn’t really think it through, we didn’t have solid arguments
to back it up during that meeting. This decision we made ruined the whole deal for us. The
investors after almost finishing the due diligence process, felt that we didn’t know what we were
doing and we never heard from them again.

Can we truly do it all?

While going through this program, we met with more than 80 investors in addition to about 20
mentors in different fields. They all had an impressive experience and they spoke the words of
wisdom. All we wanted is to go apply everything they said. We couldn’t. You simply cannot take
everyone’s input or best way to do thing or feedback for that matter. Regardless of how smart
and experienced they are. That’s when you start learning that you need to make a choice and
take a bet on particular decisions.

In order to do so, you need to understand your business upside down. That’s how you learn
what’s the right feedback for you. That will help you fix what truly needs fixing and pursue what’s
truly working. On my part, I learnt that there are 2 magic recipes to make it happen.
Recipe number one: Getting the right advisors
Determine what’s it in your business that you need help with then identify 3 advisors and/or
mentors that you trust and believe in, and who can truly devote time to help you. Whoever you
choose needs to really believe in you and in your company’s vision.
Recipe number two: Pivots are market based not advisor based
It sounds simple but it isn’t. The reality is when you have someone in front of you who exited
several times or founded a unicorn or simply with gold track record, you are tempted to take
their advice without thinking twice. For example if you built your whole business as B2C then
this particular person tells you “Are you crazy, this is definitely a B2B opportunity”.
Well, definitely do not take their word for it. Only your market can tell you what you should be
doing so test , fail and iterate based on that.
If I were to leave you with one last thing, it is the following: whenever you want to truly find out if
you are focused or not, whenever you want to check if the decision you are making is the the
best one at a given time, ask yourself these two simple questions: “Does this get me faster to
my goal?” and “ How does this really help me?”


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