Life after Startup – I might as well..

Months have gone by and the dust is now starting to settle. As I said in my previous post, I now have the physical space, time and mental space to execute on something new.

I have visited events, networking drinks, reflected, taken biking holidays, connected with close friends, entrepreneurs and old connections to get a feel for what is “out there”.

I made sure to give myself plenty of time to look around for my next business (2 years). This is to make sure I really choose an industry/idea carefully. I found that writing the articles and making the podcasts helps me keep busy but also forces me to reflect out loud in this process.

Sitting still and observing however is not really in my nature. So there is a tendency to just start with whatever crosses my path because, “I might as well.. do something”.

The curse of “just doing something”

This is definitely a pitfall I have fallen into plenty of times. I have the tendency to fall in love with an idea rather than really falling in love with a problem. An idea is much easier to pursue and execute at first, and it gets me in a quick iteration and ideation process, which is something I live for.

As any entrepreneur will learn throughout their career, the idea you start with will likely never stay the same. You will learn the hard way to keep transforming the business you have into whatever the market needs.

In my experience with Funk-e for example at some point the market for making only animation videos started to get more saturated. We originally started with a hype around a product that we instantly loved, and that sparked immense creative energy.

We were particularly lucky that we were there just before the hype. The problem we solved for, was to help companies explain their, often complex, businesses on the internet.

However a hype is not a long term problem, it will quickly blow over and become part of an ecosystem of products that address a bigger problem.

Several pivots later we were solving for a much bigger problem in internal communication in large companies.

Really understanding a problem, it’s impact on our society and the degree to which it is being solved by others has a much bigger impact than an idea on its own.

Don’t fall in love too early

Last week I landed on a video of an old university friend that now founded Demostack, a fast growing Israeli startup, now active in the US. They recently received $34M in funding and investors are standing in line. I knew Jonathan from his early days and he was always an extremely entrepreneurial guy.

From setting up a successful poffertjes stand (little dutch pancakes) during his military service to a printing service in University, to several tech startups later on. He has gone through the process of formulating an idea, to setting up a team, to building a business several times.

At the end of his video he was asked about his best piece of advice to give to people setting out to start a new business:

“Don’t get married to an idea too early, really look for a pull from the market. A big big signal that is undeniable. If you look for that it will still be hard, but you will have a better shot at building a significant company.”

From the outside this looks like a very obvious statement. If there is no demand for your product, nobody will buy it, duh!

However just like any artist, once you start building an idea, it is easy to fall in love with the product and lose track of everything around it.

Short term red ocean long term blue ocean

I really liked how he worded this concept “undeniable pull”. To me It means that whomever you talk to would not only tell you “hey, good idea” but is also prepared to give you money just based on the idea and the confidence they have that you are the person to fix that problem.

When a problem is so obvious and painful, if you manage to solve for it the right way (with the right team, culture, strategy and quality of product) you are likely to be successful long term and will not need to be distracted by many pivots.

Transforming a business can be fun, but it is like repairing a plane while it is flying. It takes a lot of energy and it is a big distraction from the core of a company: generating value.

This is pretty much the concept behind the book Blue ocean strategy. Where blue oceans are new markets, that solve for exciting new problems and red oceans are existing markets with validated products and cutthroat (hence red) competition.

For now I will stay vigilant and keep exploring areas that interest me. I can offer products that I know the market needs, but is not running wild for yet. The benefit of exploring a red market on the short term is that at least you are sure the market needs the product. But on the long term I want to explore a new market again, one with exciting new product development needs and an undeniable pull.

So for now, I might as well.. wait.


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