Reflecting on what I’ve learned over 20+ years founding, mentoring, advising and now investing in startups, the most essential lessons seem so simple. Talk to customers, early and often. Iterate. Hire slow, fire fast. Spend every dollar like it’s your last. To name just a few.
None of these are particularly difficult. Every founder I have ever met could do these things if they chose to. But early entrepreneurs often do none of them. I certainly didn’t apply any of these lessons to my first startup. I was too busy learning why these lessons are important. Ouch.
When a grizzled veteran founder says she has lots of scars and arrows in her back, this is what she means. She learned lessons not by reading blog posts of listening to panel discussions. She learned through the ‘scars and arrows of outrageous fortune.’ If she gives you advice you don’t like, you would be wise to consider it carefully anyway.
Mostly, lessons get learned through experience, by suffering their consequences. But it is possible also to learn lessons vicariously, from others who have experienced them.
This is why the most important lesson I have learned in 20 years is this: every venture-scale founder should seek out other experienced venture-scale founders. For insights. For advice. For introductions. For the empathy and commiseration that can only come from someone who truly understands what it’s like to be a founder.
Virtually all of the very best help you will receive as you build your company will come from people you know — people you know right now and the people you will meet in the years ahead. In my experience, there is no better source of help for a venture-scale founder than other venture scale founders. Full stop.
So, the big, fat lesson is… go meet founders. Lots of founders. Consider it your mission to build your network with as many venture-scale founders as you can. And don’t just look to get help. Also look to give help.
Every time you meet a new founder, that founder expands your luck surface area. And you expand theirs.
This is the project of Startup Haven.