5 Lessons Learned as a Startup Founder

5 Lessons Learned as a Startup Founder

August 19, 2016

1) Entrepreneurs start companies to solve problems. When launching a new business, ask yourself: Have I experienced the pain-points that surround this problem? Do I understand the problem inside and out? 
Lesson: If you haven't experienced the pain first hand, it's going to be very difficult to find the solution. 

2) You have to make mistakes in order to learn and innovate. Startups call it a pivot, others call it a screw up. Good entrepreneurs always make mistakes, and when they do, they embrace them. If mistakes aren't embraced, it means you're not being receptive to the feedback that you're getting. As a founder, I practice the Stoic Philosophy, which is essentially an operating system for making better decisions in life without becoming reactive. People who try to live by this philosophy tend to be optimistic and see problems as opportunities.
Lesson: Embrace mistakes, learn from them quickly, and pivot or change course.  

3) As a non-technical founder building a software company, it is imperative to find a solid developer who can build your technology. Rather than hire a full-time CTO, it's important to explore your options and consider hiring a contractor or someone in a fractional capacity. 
Lesson: A non-technical founder needs a strong technical presence that they can trust, and it doesn't necessarily have to be a full-time person.

4) Many people think having a mentor requires a formal relationship. Asking someone if they will be your formal mentor is like saying, "Hey, do you want to sign up for an unpaid, part-time job because you have so much free time?" Don't seek out formal, sanctioned mentor relationships. Instead, seek out individuals who are more experienced than you are, have been where you are, whether they are in your industry or not. Find people who you can trust, who believe in you, what you're doing, and will tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear. Ask them specifics, questions that are in their realm of competency that do not require a lot of their time.
Lesson: You don’t need to hold out for an official, sanctioned mentor relationship, but rather, learn from anyone who has wisdom or advice or value they could pass your way.  Learn more tips in my recent post: How do I become an ideal apprentice.

5) As an entrepreneur, you will face competitors. Operating with integrity is above all else. Just because you don't do business with someone today doesn't mean that down the road you won't. People who are short-sighted in a way they treat partners, will get burned. If you have the inclination to make a short-sighted decision that might benefit you in the short term, make sure you ask yourself, will this harm me down the road? Will this hurt my reputation? Sure, we live in a free capitalist economy, healthy competition is a good thing, but you do it with respect. The St. Louis community is tight-knit. Those who matter understand that integrity and treating people with respect, whether they are partners or competitors, is the higher road.
Lesson: Entrepreneurship is a long winding road. Don't get short-sighted in how you treat people. Cheaters may get ahead in the short term, but those who act with integrity always win.