You have reached that critical tipping point in your life where you want to create a product that will change the world. You have labored over a design, borrowed from friends and family and your life savings, and have quit your job in order to focus exclusively on this project. You now have an MVP, or a POC or at best, an award- winning pitch that will get you into a recognized incubator. You are on your way.
Then, the business side comes calling: You need capital, access to expertise, technology and infrastructure, and you need product validation (markets and customers). Suddenly, foreign concepts of cap tables, term sheets, shareholders agreements, non-diluted and diluted funding, advisory boards, and business partner ecosystems become part of your every-day discussion. You keep telling yourself “But I just wanted to change the world. Not go back to school for my MBA”.
Introducing a product innovation to the market requires wrapping it in a sound business model. For many founders, this can be an excitement killing realization, but this is a critical juncture, and one that can by successfully navigated with the aid of strategic advisors. These advisors are often investors who believe in you as an individual, and will invest in you, but only if you are willing to take advice and direction. In other words, you are “coachable”. You do not have all the answers. Your success will mirror those companies where the Founders did listen early and were able to surround themselves with people who had skills that they did not have – finance, operations, strategy, product development, eco-system development, HR, and capital.
These advisors are most often external to your company. While hiring a few early-stage employees is important, it is equally important to obtain maximum leverage from experts who can rapidly accelerate your business because of their extensive experience, network, advanced skills and business acumen. These experts are important for short periods of time, until your company reaches a maturity stage of being a real business.
It can be terribly emotional to recognize that you must place your trust in potential outsiders to advise you on growing your business. However, the history of start-up success is filled with stories of great ideas that never succeeded because of lack of expertise to make it happen. Vision and passion are very important, but so is execution. To be successful, a Founder needs to be coachable! Reach out and find those people early in your journey.