In “From Stanford to Startup,” the creators of the iPhone app Instagram discuss 8 startup myths. Instagram is used by 4 million people to share 6 photos per second. Here are the myths and some takeaways for church planting ministries.
Myth #1: You can learn to be an entrepreneur from a blog, book or talk.
Restated: You can learn to be a church planter from a blog, book or talk.
Truth: 1 day on the job is better than a year in a book.
Best thing to learn: how to make decisions in the midst of uncertainty.
Side note: Mission agencies could learn a lot from VC incubators that help startups succeed.
“The only thing users care about is the product you ship–not who your investors are, or whether you are an entrepreneur.”
Myth #2: Startups can only be started by computer science students.
Restated: Church plants can only be started by theology/seminary students.
Truth: Many startups by people who never went to college (or dropouts).
MS, Google dropouts. Twitter team never went to college. “Sink or swim” school of engineering. Generalists are perfect. Build relationships to people with specialized pieces of knowledge.
Myth #3: Finding the solution to the problem is the hardest part.
Truth: Finding the problem to solve is the hardest part.
It’s easy to build solutions to problems no one have. Test to see if people have the problems with rapid iterations & tests.
How do you know if you’re solving the right problems?
It’s okay to solve simple problems. Simple problems often become hard at scale.
Myth #4: Work for months building a robust product in secrecy, then launch to the world.
Stealth startups. How cool they sound.
Truth: You don’t get the feedback you need quickly enough.
Make your product public quickly.
Build the minimum viable product that answers “are we building the right thing”?
Don’t build past what you need to build to prove whether someone will use it.
Fail early and often, make failing as low cost as possible. Must fail to find the right solution. Assume from the start your first answer is not the right one. Fail your way to success. (“We’re failing too much, we need to move a bit to the right.”) Constant refinement of idea.”
See also: Whoever makes the most mistakes wins
Myth #5: Start a bidding war among VCs with a slick pitch deck.
Truth: Don’t go to a bunch of investors. Find the people you want to work with.
Raise only what you need to get off the ground (not that much)
Optimize for people, not valuation. You need people you get along with.
Focus on a prototype and traction, not a fancy pitch deck. Prototypes are more powerful than graphs.
Look at Venture Capital as a part of your team, who you are hiring.
Instagram spent $60,000 to get off the ground. Shoestring budget.
See also: Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Rule of Powerpoint
Myth #6: Starting a company = Building a product
Truth: Starting a company is 50% building a product, 50% other stuff
Recruiting, building, managing a team, raising capital
Bank accounts, taxes, forms, insurance, office, oh my.
See also: The E-Myth Revisited, which talks about the various aspects of running a business
Myth #7: Successful startups come from a single great idea
Truth: It’s not the epiphany. Entrepreneurship is a build up process.
First idea is likely not the last one
Your job is to explore the solution space
Themes will follow you
Sharing and discussing helps
”Ideas are combinatorial”: take different parts of ideas and put them together
See also: Scott Berkun, The Myths of Innovation, fantastic book on this subject. Worth $10.
Myth #8: Great startups happen overnight.
Truth: “Twitter was an overnight success that took five years.” –Biz Stone
Success comes from the foundations you’ve built along the way
Even with the right idea, you’re fighting to the next hill
Success is obvious in retrospect, but reality it’s never that clear.
”It is a long slog. … it’s like a lifetime commitment in some ways.”
4 people in our office, for 4 million users.