Top 5 tips for early-stage founders
I founded my first company when I was in undergrad. It's now been 5 years, and I've learned a ton.
Here are my top 5 learnings as an early-stage founder:
1/ Network is everything.
You can build a product and try everything to sell it, but ultimately your network is how you are going to hire, raise, and grow. That doesn't mean you need a network going into it; it means you need to spend time nurturing and growing it intentionally.
I went through 2 accelerators (@ycombinator and XX from @Wefunder) and can honestly say most of my best contacts are from them.
2/ Focus on what's important.
As a founder, you can do so many things (answer emails, implement new cool tech, etc). You need to find out what is the most important thing at that time and go all in. Until you are default alive, you are full steam ahead towards that north star.
3/ Listen to your users.
One of the best things we did early on was having our users over for dinner and just talking to them. We learned much more than we would have from a traditional user call.
This plays to @paulg's notion of doing things that don't scale. We knew we couldn't always do this but early on it was immensely helpful.
4/ Iterate fast.
We spent way too much time on features before releasing them in the early days.
There is a famous quote from Reid Hoffman: "If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.".
You should get users' hands on it as soon as you can. Don't waste time perfecting it because if the users don't want/need it, they won't use it anyway, and if they need it, they will use it even if it is crap.
5/ Build using a hypothesis.
Early on, this may seem irrelevant, but it is important. When you are building a new feature, the questions you should ask yourself are: "How will we know if this is successful?" and "What can we measure to confirm it?"
This may be anecdotal information from talking to users, conversion rates through a user flow, or retention numbers. Whatever it is, design it before you ship it. Know what makes the feature successful and use that to iterate on it.