The most important entrepreneurial lesson I've learned.

March 28, 2012 in Expert Advice

I've enjoyed recreational fishing since I was a kid. Over the years I've had the chance to fish and associate with some top anglers, and I've noticed something about them - they don't waste time in an unproductive location. If the fish aren't biting, they quickly move to a new spot. 

This applies to startup ideas too. Finding out if the market will respond positively has to be as early in the process as possible, and you should move on if it's not a fit. 

I've poured emberassing amounts of time into terrible ideas that I thought were brilliant, so please learn this principle from me, it will save you unspeakable time, money and shame if you do:

The market does not care how long you worked on something or how well you did it. Effort is not rewarded. The market cares only if what you've done is a fit for their needs.

This can be a crushing truth, especially for a craftsman. We take our startups very personally, and the more time we invest in them, the more personally we take them. But if we're serious about turning our venture into something that pays the bills, and grants us freedom, we have to accept and embrace this truth. There is no reward for sticking to something for a long time, if it's the wrong thing. If it's the wrong thing, if there is not a market fit, you fail. And unfortunately, there is no correlation between time invested and market fit.

And very often we have no idea what's going to resonate, and what's not, even when we think we do. This is why building an MVP, and validated learning are so important. Before we get too carried away, we have to find out if the market wants what we're building. 

I leave you with a multimedia nugget for thought from the great Derek Sivers. (Incidentally, I highly recommend his book. Short and sweet, and full of similar insights, including the one shown in this video). 


Side note: An interesting benefit to the KickStarter (and similar) phenomena is that folks are pumping out ideas, and using KickStarter not just to raise money, but to validate their idea. This seems like a big deal, especially for hard goods that require a larger capital investment to get started. 

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