I admire entrepreneurs for the risk they take and the unerring confidence they have in their product and market opportunity. However, what separates some of the great entrepreneurs from the average ones is an ability to acknowledge your weaknesses. As we all know, being an entrepreneur is a difficult job that is 24/7. Creating a new product or service can be draining but also quite rewarding emotionally and financially. Obviously, the last thing you want to hear when you get your initial first customers is to hear that your product has faults. For some entrepreneurs, it is akin to saying "your baby is ugly." Well, I have to tell you, I have seen a number of times where companies and entrepreneurs can drink too much of their own Kool-Aid and go quickly from product innovator and market leader to second place. In a recent example, I heard a couple customers tell a company that our field guys were a little too defensive about the product and somewhat condescending with respect to a customer’s technical knowledge. In fact, the problem was not the customer, but our product. We made the requisite changes at the personnel level but it is obviously a more important issue reflected in the core DNA of the company. So as an entrepreneur, I urge you to create a culture of questioning the status quo, of constantly reviewing your weaknesses and figuring out ways to improve yourself, your product, and company. It can be very hard to do for an entrepreneur when your blood, sweat, and tears are in the product or service but it is always better for you to figure out how to make your company obsolete and thus improve it against competition rather than your competitors. I mean, even a big company like Microsoft is making an about face acknowledging the missed opportunity on the web for the second time. As a result, we spend alot of time pre-investment trying to understand the entrepreneur’s motivation and goals as well as getting a feel for the culture in the company. Sure, we can always bring in a new CEO to fix the execution problems, but I am a strong believer that culture starts with the initial founding team and once it is embedded and institutionalized early on, it is very hard to change. As an entrepreneur, think hard about the core values you want the company to abide by as these will be the principles that take your company years into the future.
Published by Ed Sim
founder boldstart ventures, over 20 years experience seeding and leading first rounds in enterprise startups, @boldstartvc, googlization of IT, SaaS 3.0, security, smart data; cherish family time + enjoy lacrosse + hockeyView all posts by Ed Sim →