This weekend this tweet appeared in my timeline and it deeply resonated with me:
Over the past several years I have noticed a trend that people are starting companies for the sake of starting companies. I am a big proponent of entrepreneurship and believe it is a very positive thing for more people to feel empowered to start companies. It’s how we make more progress faster. But I do not think it’s a good thing to be a founder simply for the sake of being a founder. And this tweet characterizes how most people who fall into that bucket go about it. Because the gravity of wanting to start something is so strong, people do tons of research across a variety of different problem spaces until they land on something they think may have potential. And they do this without a deep passion and vision for the problem they are trying to solve.
I think this is a sub-optimal and time-wasting path of entrepreneurship. In my experience, the best founders start with a bold vision of how something in the world should work and what the end-state of the problem they are trying to solve looks like. They have a strong product vision and relentlessly pursue it. They are obstinate about what success looks like, but pragmatic enough to know that they may need to modify the course of their journey in order to succeed. Stubborn about vision, strongly opinionated about where to start, and flexible enough to make modifications once learnings are accumulated.
Loading up on research and constantly pivoting based on feedback before taking a first step can be a negative indication that a founder lacks conviction. And it also deprives founding teams of developing the most important muscle they need when getting something from zero to one and beyond: shipping things. Talking to potential customers is important, but shipping is better. Sometimes you need to will something into existence, and there’s zero substitute for a strong vision coupled with the ability to ship. No amount of customer research can compensate for a lack of this.
This doesn’t just apply to the earliest stages. In companies that have reached product market fit, I have seen customer research become a substitute for vision + shipping. It leads to inertia. Again, research is important, but if you truly have conviction about something, the best way to test it is to build it. There’s no right way to build a company, but I have a strong bias towards doing the things that will generate the momentum you need to accomplish ambitious goals.