Your baby is ugly

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 + hockey

8 comments on “Your baby is ugly”

  1. Pingback: VC Circle
  2. Ed, beautiful post.

    I think the idea of aknowledging fallibilty is quite illusive. It works in theory that if you try to identify all of your weaknesses and constrantly question the correctness of your decisions- then good things are suppposed to happen.

    It is a nobel and zen-like way of doing business, and too bad that sometimes the human ego takes over. People get tired of questioning them selves and travelling the path of self improvement- everyone just wants to celebrate that they were right, that somebody else was wrong, bring on the tequila and play ping pong.

    It’s just one of those things…mediocrity is a bitch of a habbit.

  3. Indeed, acknowledging weaknesses and working to improve things is a must do. Could not agree more. I just want to add one more point here. Although almost all the entrepreneurs tend to agree with this it is very hard for them to do this not because of the personal ego but just because they are often moving against the tide. It is really important to filter out noise coming from reluctance of establishment to give room for new thoughts and prejudices of people and focus on constructive criticism and self review (not self-doubt). Good board members are definitely helpful in this regard but what works best is taking baby steps and testing out real market- reaching to the targeted customers and users. If you focus on the real world feedback, slice and dice that with the analytic mind then you can go a long way in avoiding the potential problem down the line.

    So I completely agree with the author, stick with the culture of self evaluation and accountability from the day one.

  4. Pingback: Startup Fever
  5. Pingback: Denken Über
  6. Negative feedback from customers is the best form of free consulting. It is exceptionally easy to fall in love with your own product and lose the detatched perspective that can lead to real change.

    Martin Tibbitts

  7. Pingback: Anonymous
  8. Peter Drucker once said that “Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship… the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.” Whatever political and tax changes come in the future the country must continue to how long-standing economic success is truly achieved.

Comments are closed.