The Silver Bullet

I oftentimes hear tropes like these from early-stage startup founders:

Customer acquisition is slow right now, but we just hired an amazing head of marketing who is going to fix it for us.

Our upcoming release has the right feature set that will improve virality and kickstart growth.

We will start scaling and hit our targets when we hire our new VP Sales.

The rebrand work we are doing is going to change the game for us.

When we launch this BD partnership things are going to skyrocket.

There are endless permutations of these. Entrepreneurs gravitate towards the optimistic outlook that a new hire, feature launch, redesign, etc., will miraculously solve the most pressing problems, course correct the startup, and catapult it into the stratosphere. I have been guilty of this myself many times over.

This wishful thinking is dangerous. Most senior hires do not work out, especially at the early-stage. An overwhelming majority of launches (90%+), whether it’s a new feature, product, distribution partnership, or rebrand, do not have the desired or intended impact. Things go wrong way more often than they go right.

On the quest to achieving product-market fit, which I think of as having a product that 1) solves a real problem for customers with a 2) clear path and trajectory towards reaching the upward bound of the first S-curve, entrepreneurs delude themselves into thinking there are silver bullets. The fact of the matter is the only silver bullet that exists in these early stages is raw grit and ingenuity. This means all hands on deck, trudging through the weeds, wringing out every drop of trial-and-error progress you can to optimize for the lucky but well deserved breakthrough that gives you line of sight to a bigger and brighter future. Grit and ingenuity. That’s it.