Making sense of contradictions

There is a ton of startup advice out there, and much of it is contradictory. Let me explain what I mean with some examples:

  • Entering a crowded market: It’s smart because in a crowded market you can always find people looking for a new product. Or: It’s risky because it’s difficult to make your product stand out from the crowd.
  • Product pricing: You should charge as much as possible, that way only you need to find a handful of customers to become “ramen profitable”. Or: make your product inexpensive so you can undercut competitors and enjoy free word of mouth marketing.
  • Rapid prototyping: Smart because it allows you to quickly validate if your business model works. Or: It’s unwise because if you rush to market your product won’t be great.
  • Originality in product: It’s good because people don’t get excited about things they’ve seen before. Or, maybe, it’s bad because it means you’re solving a problem that doesn’t exist or nobody cares about.

It’s not hard to come up with arguments for or against anything when it comes to software startups. This is in part because the world of software is big. Strategies that make sense for a lavishly funded startup in the valley won’t work for a bootstrapped company in Japan. A biotech startup has different constraints than a simple web startup.

Contradictory startup advice is also common because there are many different ways to get a company off the ground. What worked for others in their particular situation probably won’t work for you. Different time, different product, different market, different people. Every startup is unique and the world is changing rapidly.

When you get or read advice ask yourself if the opposite could be equally true. It easily could be. It’s up to you to figure out if you should follow well-meant advice or do the opposite. It’s rarely obvious. So take the time to really think everything through. As a rule of thumb, you can learn the most from founders that are slightly ahead of you and that have a product in a similar but different market. Then you can look at what they do and see if it works. What does their marketing and sales strategy look like? Is their product good? Do people talk about their product on social media? What do they say? How and where they they get their first users? If you keep your eyes peeled for evidence like this you’ll learn a bunch.

You can follow us on Twitter @jdvhouten and @wcools and look for #80daystartup

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