The year is 2013—your friends probably convinced you to download Instagram by now, you’re finally trying this “Uber” thing to the airport, “startup” is a buzzword, and Shark Tank has taught us all how to pitch. We’re taking our big ideas seriously! (Or at least contemplating it.)
Eight years and a pandemic later, we’ve demystified a lot of the old myths about #startuplife through our own lived experiences, but it’s time to take inventory and debunk a few more. Check out our updated list of 7 startup myths below.
Original: A great product is all you need.
Now: Your first product will be perfect.
At this point, you probably know that the best ideas or best products aren’t always the winners. You’ve probably even witnessed some not-so-great products rise in popularity because of well-executed marketing. But there is a deeper myth we need to debunk here, and it’s that your first iteration of your product/idea will be perfect. Not only will your first product not be perfect, but it also won’t nearly resemble the beautiful vision you had in your head—and that’s ok! In fact, very few startups come out the gate achieving product-market fit with their first iteration. Your very first iteration should truly be a minimum viable product (MVP) to test the market’s response. This doesn’t mean cutting corners on quality, but it does mean truly considering what is needed right now to test your business, and what can wait!
Original: If you’re venture-backed you’ll succeed.
Now: You need to be ventured back to succeed.
Now more than ever venture capital seems to be the “stamp” of approval that you are well on your way to success. We now know only a small percentage of venture-backed companies turn into unicorns, yet there still seems to be an insatiable desire to say “we closed XXX” round. Don’t get me wrong, capital is needed to grow, but today’s startup culture tends to add too much value on money and not enough value on resourcefulness. Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital said it best at the 2019 Black Women Talk Tech Conference, “Be proud that you don’t have investors… be proud that you own 100% of your company.” Bootstrap your business with your full-time job, apply to pitch competitions, compete for grants, barter work on your business for other goods you can provide, but do not let the idea of needing venture capital halt your momentum towards success.
Original: Passion for your business is all you really need.
Now: Overworking now will lead to success later.
Okay, we now know that passion alone can’t make a business, but we also need to realize that hard work alone doesn’t either. In fact, we’re now seeing how real founder burnout is and how detrimental it can be to your mental health and your business. Yes, there will be some late nights and early mornings, but running yourself into the ground doesn’t necessarily make your business grow faster. The key here is balance and priority. Balance your work with self-care, and prioritize your duties. Remember, you can run very fast in place, or enjoy a nicely paced jog to your actual destination. The choice is yours.
Original: Entrepreneurship is easy.
Now: You’ll quit your full-time job when your startup can pay you.
Let’s be honest. By now, you know that entrepreneurship is not easy. Entrepreneurship takes an unparalleled amount of optimism, self-direction, and sacrifice. No matter how you slice it, entrepreneurship requires risk, which leads us to the new myth to debunk, “I’ll quit my full-time job when my startup can pay me what I make.” This is an idealistic goal at best, and at worst a missed opportunity to be real with ourselves. Nearly all entrepreneurs will undergo financial strain of some sort along their journey to see their vision through. Before taking the jump, assess your current expenses, find ways to decrease your overhead expenses, and save as much as you can. If your work environment is healthy, keep your job for as long as possible to bootstrap. But let’s come to terms with the very real reality that you’ll take some sort of financial hit before your vision can sustain you—and that is okay.
Original: Your first idea is your best idea.
Now: Your first idea is your best idea.
This point is as relevant today as it was eight years ago. Your first idea is probably not your best idea for a few reasons—you haven’t validated the market yet, customers don’t perceive the problem the same way you do, or there is another opportunity with greater potential that will require you to pivot. Either way, let’s normalize our first idea not being the best idea until we do that customer discovery legwork, fully understand the market, and have internalized all the influences on our particular industry. Pivoting is not only okay but also encouraged! In the early stages of your startup, be agile and adjust your business according to the market, not according to your ego.
Original: If you’re building something technical, you have to be in Silicon Valley.
Now: If you’re building something technical, you don’t need a technology co-founder.
With startup culture rapidly growing across the states, you can thrive as a founder in many cities without stepping foot in Silicon Valley. However, with easier access to low-cost developers and no-code solutions, you may not see the immediate need of having a techy on board so early in your startup journey. We need to debunk this. Even if you do not have a tech co-founder, you should deeply consider bringing on a tech advisor or project manager early on. Non-tech founders are likely visionaries and industry experts, but someone with tech expertise can help execute your vision by negotiating costs, giving insight on the scope of work, and doing due diligence on technical matters that you may not understand.
Original: You don’t need to have business acumen if your partner does.
Now: Operating your business is your top priority.
Whether you have a co-founder or not, every entrepreneur needs to know some business basics like revenue, cost of goods sold, business expenses, cash flow, etc. However, as the founder (particularly CEO founder) of your business, you need to begin distinguishing between the roles of “working in your business” and “working on your business”. Early in your journey, you should identify a COO or Chief Operating Officer that is devoted to overseeing business operations so that you can focus on forming strategic partnerships, securing funding, and building an overall vision for the company.