What I learned from a startup incubator
April 11, 2023
I lost two years on my first failed SaaS.
Years later I crossed $61k MRR, solo.
In between those periods I worked within a start-up incubator.
Here’s what I learned:
There are plenty of really smart people who never make it as an entrepreneur.
Mindset is more often valuable here than brains.
There are plenty of less-than-bright people that crush it as entrepreneurs.
I promise you have what it takes, no matter how average you think you are.
We all start out as impostors, and we remain impostors as long as we push ourselves out of our comfort zone.
This should be viewed as a positive, as it is a huge motivator and growth driver.
We are all just figuring it out as we go.
Don’t let others fool you into thinking they have all the answers. There’s no right or wrong way to run a startup; there’s just what works and what doesn’t.
What works to get traction in one startup is not necessarily going to work for another.
Take tactical advice only as inspiration, not as gospel. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses is invaluable. Learn them and pay attention to them.
Just because someone else enjoys building in public or waking at 4 am doesn’t mean you need to force yourself to do the same if it doesn’t suit you.
In many cases, raising money doesn’t make things any easier. Often it complicates things.
Make sure you’re very clear on why you need to raise money, if you’re considering it.
Within a startup, team dynamics are critical.
Likability and determination matter more to individual success more than skillset.
The more people involved in a startup, the less productive they each are.
On a team of 3, you can’t slack off without it being noticed.
One person says, “I don’t know how to do that,” while another says, “I’ll figure it out.” Who would you rather work with? Who would you rather be?
Often the “best” engineers are the least effective in an early-stage start-up.
You want scrappy and good enough - not polished and ready for scale.
You don’t have to work 20 hour days, 7 days a week to be successful.
Making smarter, faster decisions is better than working more hours.
People perform better when they’re given ownership, especially in the early stages of a startup where they can have the biggest impact.
Simple ideas are often better than big ideas.
They’re easier to execute, easier to explain, and take less time to take to market.
People spend a lot of time on things that don’t matter.
Don’t fall into the busywork trap. Focus on what will move the needle. Eliminate the rest.
If you know the right people, they can help you leap-frog years ahead of where you’d otherwise be.
Be helpful, be kind, and make friends.
Most startups fail, so chances are you’ll have some failures too. Now let’s stop calling them failures, because they aren’t. They’re typically a prerequisite to success.