Riding to Work

I was riding my bike to work this morning, in a hurry to get to the office. I was going to teach an online class in crowdfunding to people all over the world. I couldn’t be late.

When riding fast in Los Angeles traffic you encounter people running stop signs, dogs leaping out at you, drivers opening doors, kids, strollers, you name it. It’s all coming at you. Since I didn’t want to be late, I focused on my objective, far down the road.

‘Far down the road:’ The metaphor wasn’t lost on me. Startup founders often have their eyes on a distant objective. Launch. Ship. Something big. Something Far Down the Road. As I wheeled down fast to my office, I realized that focusing solely on my objective might get me in trouble.  Staring straight ahead at my objective caused me to ignore side streets, alternative paths, and all those dogs, strollers, people talking on phones and texting while crossing the street. It was dangerous. Staring straight ahead was leaving me unprepared for the unexpected.

‘Expect the unexpected’ …

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Do You See the End of Your Startup Runway?

I used to work for Dateline NBC as a producer. There was a Senior Producer,  our boss, something of a field general, who was flown out from New York for all the big stories.  He was a gruff figure with a heart of gold, and he barked orders well. He had an expression: ‘Don’t panic until I tell you to.’ I always liked that, so I pass it along to you now.

Every startup has only so much runway. At first you’re developing your app as efficiently as you can, using resources slowly. Then you’re doing customer development interviews, using a few more resources. Then you’re building your community using cheap, slow resources like connecting with friends, family and colleagues. In time, your burn rate increases. You might need advertising or media buys, and you go for the spend. Then, as almost always happens, for various reasons user adoption slows. You’re just not getting the signups you need. You know that if investors like one thing, it’s traction. You need user adoption to look good, and even more importantly, to learn.

With the …

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