Focus (a.k.a. f(success) = M * (runway / burn rate) )

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Of all the characteristics and skills we consider when assessing the quality of a given entrepreneurial team, the ability to focus on the right things is probably the most critical.

Any given early stage startup probability of success can be expressed as the relationship between a key problem-solving milestone, the cost of taking a shot at hitting that milestone and the amount of shots you get.

I picture startups as being lined up at a one of those carnival attractions where you’re trying to hit a dunk tank bullseye.   The bullseye represents a real market problem that you’re trying to ‘fix’.  The amount of chances you get to hit depends on how much money you have in your pocket to buy beanbags, or balls, or whatever object you’re using to hit the goal with.

It turns out that, often times, you shouldn’t even be there because you’re not ‘solving a problem’.  In other words, even if you hit the target no one will care.  This is the problem for 60% of startups.

Assuming you are solving a problem, you need to have enough capital to trade in for shots at the goal.  That can come in the form of time or money.  Most first-time entrepreneurs get very few shots because no one is willing to give them tons of money and if they’re bootstrapped they can only survive or so long..

Then, the biggest problem that first-time entrepreneurs seem to have is that, assuming they get past the first two hurdles and they get to take a few shots at their target, they lose track of the bullseye because they become distracted by other things.  All of a sudden there are new people nearby, and other bulls-eyes pop up, and suddenly your goal doesn’t seem as interesting.  Before you know it, you’re out of chances.

Obsessive focus on customer problems allow great entrepreneurs to get closer to the goal by the time they need more capital.  Startups are just a game of those cycles – don’t waste yours.

eCommerce Hack Day & The NYC Startup Ecosystem


I had the great pleasure of hitting the demo session for e-commerce hack day ny on Sunday.  Anyone who doubts the power and legitimacy of the startup ecosystem in New York City should have checked this event out. A Sunday in August had over 255 attendees, media, a slew of vcs and a ton of great ideas from Hackers that descended from all over the country [and Canada!].

Hack Day was phenomenally organized and executed by Dwolla and Etsy, and hosted at AlleyNYC, an amazing space for early and growth stage companies in mid-town.

I was impressed with the show of force that the new york startup scene is capable of and inspired by the hackers I saw present. Big congrats to everyone involved in what was undeniably a huge success.