I know the article sounds like blunt rant but it's a topic very dear to me as i regularly mentor startups. Many of them hide in the mentioned patterns.
If you know good articles / links on how to prioritise your work and assess missing skills in your founding team please be so kind and share them here. I will add them to the article afterwards.
All three of us at tldr.io are coders, so we indeed jumped in the code and built (what we thought was) a great product. We thought the product would be viral, and of course it wasn't. So now we are in a two weeks long "no code" period, and this forces us to go outside of our comfort zone.
If you know which skills are needed for the founding team, the missing skills are simply the difference between the two.
I think finding out which skills are needed might not be very trivial. They need to be close to the core directive of the startup, all the other required skills can be filled by employees. (as in, if your startup is highly technical the founders could be 2 engineers, as long as the first two employees are a CEO and a marketer)
I love the article btw, nice and direct. Hopefully someone in the comments disagrees completely :)
I should have guessed you are one :)
I'll definitely get a mentor when I get started (fortunately there are several mentoring program over here in Uruguay), some are global programs like Endeavor and other are sponsored by the local chambers.
In general the work of a manager is precisely that, find the people that will love to do what is required(know about people), understand what is required(know about the needs of people and your customers) and remove all the blocks they could find doing it(know about execution).
Not as easy at it sounds, they are also "naturals" at it.
Doing 90% of your best time in live before dying something you can't be great at because you don't appreciate it is not sustainable in the middle and long term.
I tried to focus on that by explaining that founders tend to think of themselves as executors while they are at the same time managers (of themselves)
Ad "solution": As you said - i don't really provide many of them - if you got good links to recommend please post them - i will add them!
Ad "naturals": I am unsure if managers are born or trained. I know a lot of people who grew in that role.
You're right about the way it affects our choices when we pick our daily work. I think the real work, whether it's a startup or not, is to clarify what's important. You startup folks just get the fun of having to really think deeply about that, because there's nobody above you to tell you what the most important thing is right now.
I think that the problem lies in busywork instead of creating value, not in doing what you do best (and if you do that, good chance that you can find people who are good in waht you need that will join you).
I agree that founding teams should try to get complementary skill-sets in, but this can't be used as an excuse.
Or differently put… while I agree that everyone should do what they are best in, "focus" should come a bit later. Especially in the early phases founders are cross-disciplinary. I see a few people using the "focus on what you are best" as an excuse for just "doing what you like most" and ignore/hire/blame the rest.
Let's say I am 5 times faster working on what I love to do, but it's only 50% as effective for my business as what I should do. Well it's still better than being 5 times slower to do something that's only twice as important.
The hard part is working out those numbers and knowing what wins, but being aware of the concept is a great start.
the flip-side of this is important though. I totally agree that most people involved in startups are way too busy 'living the startup-life' and forgetting about the essence and true face of it all, namely that it still is "hardcore business". it still requires picking up the phone, ramping up customer after customer, smart investment of resources and selling 'to the person' and not just tweet about it, and so forth. but, as said, flip-side: if all startups were to face the most traditional form of doing business every day, most would simply not find it fun enough to dedicate their passion to this. so we get a little leeway so we can move around our actual duties and it's all good. there's just this super-fine-line that most of us overlook eventually, where people forget about the essence of what they're supposed to do and just enjoy the lifestyle a tad more than it might be healthy to the mission.
great article, definitely one i'll be coming back to for a refreshing read every once in a while in the future.
I didn't focus on the developer/hackathon vs getting customer aspect.
I believe you are right about it - when it comes to myself 1000% spot–on. But i know the same pattern with biz-centric founder teams, even with balanced founder teams. People just hide in the comfortable skill-zone and wait/blame/hire for the rest
this is where a ceo or manager usually excels or completely fails. the best managers i've had, especially in the US, were able to find the sweet-spot. they kept me out of comfort most of the time, but with just the right reward settings, so you will be constantly surprised by your new-found potential and always feel the world is requesting a bit too much from you but you still manage to work it out, all the time, magically.
What is actually the most dangerous thing to happen, simply because it's so convenient, is that by doing what you can do best all the time keeps you busy, in your eyes and the eyes of others. So when you fail, it was not because you didn't do anything. You're creating your own bubble.
That's why it's better to have a co-founder who is not a carboncopy of yourself and to have a not-awfully-bad board, because both can help to pop that bubble before it is too late.
Very sound advice, and not only for start-ups / founders but for everybody who has a certain responsibility.
Of course, there's still need for objective look and understanding of what should be done first. I guess, balanced team of technical and non-technical cofounders should be the way to have it.
But i know know too many people who take the "this is the job of my co-founder" route as excuse for not caring of the (currently) more important things.