Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Fear Is A Losing Game

You simply cannot buy the lessons I have learned being a co-founder of a tech start-up. Regardless of oponia and ucaster's success or failure, it's been a business roller coaster ride that would put any executive mucky muck MBA program to shame.

One of the biggest lessons I think I've learned is about fear. Looking back I see fear as a losing game and thought i'd jot down some of the biggest fears start-ups seem to have and my rear-view perspective on them.

Fear of Openess:

- If you can't be open about your idea (stealth, nda's) then you are losing an invaluable opportunity to get the right people to give you feedback and ideas on how to make your idea better. Most people are going to be genuinely excited and want to help. Listening can be your greatest advantage but if you can't speak to anyone or show what you are doing to anyone, then you'll have no one to listen to but yourself. And that's never a good thing.

Fear of Being Wrong:

- You will make more mistakes doing a start-up than anything else. And in fact those mistakes can lead you in a new and much better direction. Move fast, learn quickly and don't be afraid to have people throw tomatoes at you. If you find yourself not being able to make a good argument on your own behalf, then they just might have an important point you should listen too. Your users are your target market not you.

Fear of Giving Away Too Much

- We had the opportunity to bring someone on early who probably would have made a huge difference to our business. We thought at the time we would have to give away too much. Since then, I have been asked by some people to be involved in their project and wanted to bring a team of people on board and they thought we were asking too much. If you think it will up your chances of success, don't be scared to give away too much. Whether that be shares or money. Build the right team first. Having a smaller part of something great will be better than having a huge part of nothing.

Fear of Putting It Out There

- I've had some people talk to me who are shy by nature and say they can't start a blog, aren't good at presentations etc. Get over it. You cannot do a start-up and be shy. These days to be successful you have to put it all on the line and be prepared to be the clown, the idiot, the fool. Now of course, we all hope everyone will think we are brilliant most of the time, but the truth is everyone is going to have an opinion and you have to be prepared to put yourself out there day in and day out regardless of how strange it might feel.

Cheesy Courage poster via:


Fraser said...

Wonderful post! If I still used social bookmarking tools I would have tagged this, it's that good.

Leigh said...

Thanks F...and congrats on your Adaptive Blue milestone :)

scott said...

Love the post. So true, in my entrepreneurial experience.

One basis of fear's power is mis-identity. When I forget the following, fear holds greater sway:
1. My career/venture/product is not my identity
2. Good/smart people make decisions that look bad/stupid in retrospect. You just cannot know everything or control every factor in life.
3. While the team MAY fail, any attempt by an individual to control/do everything WILL CERTAINLY fail. Worthwhile endeavors are larger than me.

Leigh said...

Love the third point in particular Scott. Thanks for dropping by.

Nick said...

Since our last chat about this Leigh, i have taken your open-ness approach in mind.

Like you say in your post, what I have found is that being open has been greatly beneficial in:

1. cultivating new ideas

2. stripping away misconceptions & incorrect assumptions that small teams often make

3. networking and identifying resources that can assist with a problem space

4. most importantly, through communicating your ideas, refine what your company's core business value is. I've found that there are no shortage of good ideas, but without strong self-identity, it's difficult to filter out the ideas that are not compatible/waste of time

That said, i still think these rules apply only to a trusted network, and NDAs do have their place, so i won't be putting up any ideas on a public forum just yet :)

Speaking of trusted network, we never did go for lunch yet did we?

Leigh said...

Hi Nick,

Definately agree regarding filtering. I've never seen anyone fail by deploying a maniacal focus and it's true that taking feedback while keeping your vision it's crucial.

But glad to hear you've opened up regardless. I really think the benefits will out-weigh the costs in the long run.

As for lunch, anytime. We missed you at the good bye the other day.


sam said...

What a good post. Especially the third line. Its gr8. Keep it up

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dacia said...

Fear is an emotional response to threats and danger. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of pain. Psychologists John B. Watson, Robert Plutchik, and Paul Ekman have suggested that fear is one of a small set of basic or innate emotions. This set also includes such emotions as joy, sadness, and anger.I guess fear of losing might cause too cautious play when you're ahead . That's small stuff. If you figured out how to get ahead in a game in the first place, overcoming this fear should be easy.Somtimes when i feel a fear of playing/losing i think of this quote "Somtimes you win and somtimes you LEARN. when you dont think of losing as LOSING but learning it helps.

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