A prospective client of mine recently told me that his biggest struggle as a founder was dealing with procrastination. Procrastination happens when you have a task but it’s scary, overwhelming or not fun — so you feel discouraged from completing that task.
I’ve worked with many founders and have founded a couple of startups myself. Throughout my time I’ve seen many different forms of procrastination. Building a team before you have a viable product is, in my opinion, one form of procrastination, as is building a fully-fleshed out product, and learning to code.
You have only one goal
The thing is, the only goal you as a founder have when you embark on a journey with your startup is to test whether your idea is viable. That’s it. Most of the time, you don’t need to code for that. You don’t need to build a product for that. And you don’t need to build a team for that.
Instead, you need to create an MPV: a scrappy, minimal version of your product that is easy to put together. But we don’t want that, do we? Surely our products should have outstanding designs, so we lasso a designer onto our team, preferably a co-founder. And the product should definitely be AI-powered and scalable, so we need a CTO, too. Oh, and we’re going to have a marketing campaign like Slack, so…let’s get a co-founder who is a CMO.
Lucky you if you have all these amazing people just waiting around to help you out. But if you don’t, that actually might be a good thing. It’s easier to move alone. When you don’t have a team, you can create a landing page in one day using a template. When you don’t have a CTO, you can create a mashup from several services like Zapier and Integromat and have an automated workflow. And you can create your own simple marketing campaign to test all of that.
When I just started out as an entrepreneur, I was a graphics designer. I had a limited development background, one that wasn’t extensive enough to create an app that I wanted to create. So I hired a developer. I also didn’t have the skills to market the app, or the connections needed to start the business, so I partnered with a few people I know. Soon enough, I had built a core team, but all I was in charge of was the design. It wasn’t really my business because I didn’t have the core competencies; I wasn’t the person who was crucial for the business to run. I was just a designer. It was a strange feeling when I realized that I wouldn’t be able to run the business without my partners.
Questions to ask yourself
What is the core competence for your startup? Do you have it, or do you just have an idea for a startup? For example, if you’re a doctor and you have an idea for an app for doctors, you still have the core competence, even if you can’t code. You can work with any developer or marketer, but you will be the one with the domain knowledge and understanding of people’s problems.
But if you’re a developer who went to the dentist and came up with an idea for an app, you won’t be able to build and sell an app on your own. Well, you will, but you’ll have to learn everything about the app and the market that you want to work with — you’ll have to obtain the domain knowledge. In that case, it makes sense to partner with someone.
Unless you’re in the previous situation, you should build an MVP first because it’s easier to build a team when you have an MVP. Having an MVP means that your idea is already validated. You have a product and you have some revenue and early customers. Otherwise, it’s not an MVP. (If you are in the previous situation, that’s okay — you don’t have to build a whole team, but you may want to consider partnering with someone who has the core competence.)
Pros of building an MVP first
Here are some more advantages of building an MVP before your core team:
- With an MVP, it’s easier to get people on board. Who would you want to work with: a founder with an idea, or a founder who’s already created a product and has some paying customers? It’s a no-brainer.
- You can and should build an MVP quickly to test the idea and pivot if it doesn’t work. Building a team takes time. Once you build a team, you’ll be working on a product that could potentially be useless — if the market doesn’t need the product you have in mind.
- An MVP allows you to acquire funding, and with funds, it’s easier to build a team. Investors are looking for founders who can show persistence and achieve results, just as your team is. When you get funding, you can access the talent that wasn’t available to you when you were just starting out. (Co-founders need to pay the bills, too.)
Are you currently experiencing this dilemma? Have you already started building an MVP or building a team?
Originally published on Medium