Startup Love Story (a tragedy in 3 parts)

Startup Love – Part 1 – The idea

Startup love

Startup love. A bedroom.

Chris had fallen head over-heels and was besotted with his wonderful new idea. He had discovered his entrepreneurial heart’s desire.

Endless days were spent working on his computer, which perched on the small desk next to his bed. Chris’ laptop gave birth to spreadsheets, a business plan and a new WordPress website.

Our entrepreneur devoted days to building a hotch-potch community of social media connections. And the internet was scoured for startup competitions.

Startup love and startup life were all consuming.

Meanwhile, well-meaners and available mentors would suggest gently that Chris think further, beyond and anew. But Chris rose above the ‘noise’.

Chris knew his stuff. And no one was going to divert him nor steal his secret idea.

Such is the blinding power and fiendish force of startup love.


Startup Love – Part 2 – The unveil

A whirlwind romance without question or doubt can only lead to one place.

Startup love thrives on celebration and approval.

A date was set.

Chris’s adventure launched on social media on a wet Monday morning.

Brimming with confidence and optimism, he perused his website and social media numbers, hourly.

For anyone still tuning into one-way communication, this venture was a sure-fire success story.

But within weeks Chris’ doubts niggled. Nice chats and positive emojis were always pleasing. But where were the sales? Where was the cash?

Bullish forecasts are no match for harsh reality.

Each day a revised plan. Each day more rejection. Each day another day. Only Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, a website and an idea kept Chris company.

Over time, quiet and isolation take their toll. Chris was beginning to sense he may be falling out of first startup love.

And his mind was drifting to other startup ideas too.


Startup Love – Part 3 – The breakup

Chris’s relationship with his first startup love lasted 5 months, 3 weeks and 2 days.

It all came to a head when he had a stand-up row with a prospective customer – who had reluctantly agreed to a meeting.

On the day, the well-informed prospect didn’t hold back and made it clear to Chris his idea didn’t work properly and cheaper competitor products performed better.

For stubborn entrepreneurs, hard truths present as lies.

And as the tension rose and resentment started so the meeting ended.

As did Chris’ business.

Chris returned to his bedsit and realised he had little energy or desire to try and persuade the less capable, that his business was a winner.

So he simply stopped. Yet few noticed.

Chris convinced himself his new ideas were even better.

Beaten but not broken, Chris opened his laptop and started-over in his bedroom.


Key Learning Points

This short story builds on Startup Mind Power; a previous blog post which explains the presence and power of myelin within the brain.

So many businesses fail in the early days because the owner naively believes their world view is reflected by prospective customers. In part and as a consequence, early-start entrepreneurs become product focused.

Product focused entrepreneurs can easily fall in love with making something and developing supporting promotional resources (social media, websites etc.). This work is new and for many highly enjoyable. For seasoned entrepreneurs it is a sign of laziness. But it can also be viewed as a quick get-to-market strategy.

Flipside. Successful, sustainable businesses solve real market problems and are thus market focused. People running market focused businesses spend much of the time in the early days talking to prospective customers, sharing ideas and prototype thinking. Resultant feedback informs and shapes how products and services are offered. Getting to market though requires more resilience and takes more time compared to a product focused strategy.

Why don’t all startups engage in a market-focused strategy?

Many startups don’t engage with prospective customers because they don’t know how to, fear rejection or both. As a result, these startups spend their time building their products or services – often in a vacuum where the loudest voice is their own. Lack of appropriate customer engagement is a root cause of early failure. Startups therefore need to be given the skills and persuaded to meet people, hear important reactions first-hand and use the research to best effect.

Neurological impact of product-focused startup love

Neurologically, the damage early-stage startups (operating in a vacuum) can cause themselves is immense. Working on their own, people increasingly (and unwittingly) believe their own startup love story and thus build muscle tissue (myelin) around the wrong nerve fibres in the brain. In other words, early-stage product-focused entrepreneurs teach themselves false truths.

And so when the day comes that startups actually seek to sell their product/services, rejection rates are typically extremely high (due to lack of market research and too much startup love).

Rejection is painful and worse… the entrepreneur thinks the customer is the one in the wrong because their reaction contradicts the supposed ‘true’ beliefs held by the entrepreneur.

For many, it is very difficult to find a way forward past this point. Typically, the answer is to start again.

But when starting over, learn from the mistakes and take a market focused view. As a result, myelin develops around the right nerve fibres. This is a far better startup love story.

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