The one thing there is no shortage of in startup land is advice. The problem for the founder is that because there is so much advice, it’s very hard for him to differentiate between what’s good and what’s bad. Often he’s not sure what to do, and is paralyzed into inactivity, because both courses of action ( which may be diametrically opposite) seem to be perfectly sensible and rational. Both the people who are giving the advice seem to be well-informed and experienced, which is why the founder is confused.
I think founders need to understand that there is never a single right answer, and that a lot of the advice we give is based on our personal experience, which means it’s not always a good idea to accept it blindly, because times and circumstances change all the time. If there was a simple formula, then creating a startup would become so much simpler. However, the reality is that there are so many moving parts and uncertainties that it’s impossible to know what the future holds. You, as the founder, need to be comfortable dealing with this uncertainty, and to understand that you need to run experiments in order to find out what works for you and your company.
Treat all advice as a hypothesis, and then adapt it for your constraints. Whether or not it works, you should become smarter as a result of these experiments, so you can do a better job as you mature.
The trick is to read widely; listen to lots of advice ; and be willing to fail quickly, so that the failure is not so expensive that you can’t recover. That’s the only way you will learn lessons which will add to your chances of succeeding in the future.
For example, let’s look at one of the common dilemmas which founders face – should we bootstrap ? or should we raise funding? Each course has its advantages and disadvantages. With bootstrapping, you can do what you think is right for your company, which allows you to focus on the customer and grow. However, the growth will be slow and organic, and there’s a good chance of success, if you’re willing to be patient. If you take external funding, then your ability to grow exponentially increases considerably, but then in addition to keeping your customers happy, you also have to satisfy your investors , and it can be hard to answer to tow masters. Life becomes a lot more complicated when you accept money from anyone, because this always comes with strings attached!
The good news is that none of your problems are really unique. Other founders have encountered them , and dealt with them successfully. Interestingly, each of their solutions has been different. The common denominator for success is they have handcrafted their own solutions , based on the circumstances which they found themselves in ; and their own personal philosophy, by playing to their own strengths rather than depending blindly on what someone else has to say.
By definition, the future is full of uncertainty and the whole point of a startup is to craft a path toward success, which no one else may have tried before. Typically, you will have to cobble together suggestions from multiple different sources – whether these are books; blogs; mentors; colleagues; friends ; and other founders . You will then have to stitch all this together , so that you can maximize your chances of success given the limits which you have to deal with.
There are no generic right answers – there is just the answer which is right for you, and you need to find this yourself.