Over the past few months I have had numerous entrepreneurs approach me to ask if I know of any good investors. Others haven’t approached me but I’ve read of their trouble finding funding. Today, a friend of mine, Nate Westheimer, announced that he will no longer be pursuing his own startup. I’m sorry to hear that but I’m glad that he is looking forward with optimism. Only recently did I speak with another entrepreneur who was making the same decision.
Building a business is insanely challenging especially if it is in the internet industry. Personally, I’ve tried to develop countless startups. From a website called Frusic, which was the first social network that brought together musicians and fans to University Swap, which was a site that found the cheapest textbook on the web. I also tried things non-internet related including importing liquor from Brazil which was one of the most challenging companies I’ve started.
I’ve also worked at a number of startups which each died slow deaths. Each died for their own reason but pretty much all of them died. At this point you may be thinking to yourself: well I know who not to hire when I’m trying to build my startup! Aside from the fact that the first 5 or 10 businesses I was involved in all failed, I’ve learned a ton from each of these failures.
Entrepreneurs Can Become Excessively Attached
One thing that I’ve also had the opportunity to observe over the past couple years is the attachment that entrepreneurs have with their businesses. This attachment can have numerous side effects. For the purpose of this article, the primary issue with this attachment is that an entrepreneur will frequently try to build something that just isn’t a good idea.
When I say something isn’t a good idea, it means a lot of things including: it was the wrong timing for a product’s introduction, a poorly developed pitch or lack of access to the people that could make an idea work. Entrepreneurship involves a lot of luck and frequently it requires this magical mix of passionate and intelligent individuals combine with access to people that can spread an idea.
Bad Ideas are Simply Bad Ideas
Occasionally, I meet somebody that has a really horrendous idea and no matter how much marketing they put into it, it simply won’t work. Then again, nobody can tell you what really is a horrible idea but if you start hearing that your idea isn’t a great one from multiple people, you might want to question whether it’s worth following your current idea.
That was like the liquor I was preparing to import. The reality was that it tasted like crap. Years later, nobody has been able to figure out an effective way to market the distilled sugar cane to consumers. No matter how much marketing you put into something, some ideas were meant to die. One thing that nobody can take away from true entrepreneurs is passion and persistence.
No matter how many failures you have, you must make sure that you keep those two things. Most often, truly great ideas experience growth pretty early on. While it takes a variable amount of effort to get something off the ground, once you get something to launch, it should be able to gain traction with a little bit of effort.
Good Ideas Experience Traction Early On
The funny thing is that once your product or service starts gaining traction, you’ve only started. Enough of the rambling. What do I think the true test of a good product is? If you build a prototype, after a minor amount of adjusting, your product should be able to gain traction. If you find that it doesn’t gain traction after an extreme amount of effort, you might want to reconsider the future of your idea.
One final thought. Just because knowing when to quit is extremely important for an entrepreneur, there are no exact rules. Sometimes one customer is all you need and that is enough “traction.” In the end, the entrepreneur is the only person who can decide. What do you think are good tests of a product or idea? Do you have rules for knowing when to quit?