Startup Tip: Play The Long Game
Amidst the excitement and hoopla of Startup Weekend, it’s easy (and fun!) to get caught up in the thrill of launching something new. Building something new and getting it launched is one of the most exhilarating things ever (especially if people actually like what you’ve made).
But successful entrepreneurs recognize that the path to success is a long one; it’s a journey with brief moments of adrenaline sprinkled amongst long stretches of “grinding it out.” The metaphor of pushing a boulder up a hill is an apt one.
I’ve worked with a lot of entrepreneurs as a finance and BD consultant, and I’ve noticed that the successful ones—the ones that raise capital, and have a lucrative exit—all share a common trait: they take a long-term approach to their company. They are thinking in terms of the next 10 years, not the next 3 months.
This view is healthy for a number of reasons. First, it keeps you from chasing after every hot new geo-local-social-mobile-disappearing-sext-your-friend trend; it keeps you marching along a path toward building a meaningful company—the kind that becomes valuable to acquirers, or to the public markets.
Second, a long-term view puts the daily wins and losses in perspective. This is really important, as I’ve seen the normal setbacks and defeats common to all startups derail many an entrepreneur with a weaker stomach. If you’re in it for the long haul, things like getting rejected by a VC or an unflattering article from a jaded TechCrunch writer don’t get under your skin. They are normal speed bumps on the road to success.
Finally, a third benefit or by-product of taking a long-term view is that it often fosters a big, ambitious vision. If you’re thinking in terms of a 10-year plan, you’re probably going to aim to solve a big hairy problem; you aim to build a company, not a feature. You aim high, and that’s a good thing, as it will help you attract employees, investors, and other key stakeholders.
While taking the long view will help you win, I want to emphasize this doesn’t mean you move slow; one of your key advantages as a startup is that you’re nimble, agile, and close to your customers. So enjoy your Startup Weekend, hatch something ambitious, get out there and talk to users—and then settle in for the long, fun, and occasionally bumpy ride.
Nathan Beckord is the CEO of Foundersuite, a startup that makes productivity tools for entrepreneurs. Nathan also works with startups as interim CFO, BD, or Advisor through his consulting business, VentureArchetypes.
On the side, he produces the StartupBD, StartupExits and Startup Funding 2.0 events focused on early-stage partnerships, M&A and fundraising. He lives in San Francisco and enjoys sailing on the Bay. Follow him at @startupventures and @foundersuite.