Cathy Han, the founder of 42 (Y Combinator W14), a data analytics company, has this advice to give a young first-time startup CEO.
- Have DETERMINATION. It is the biggest predictor of long-term success. Nobody has an easy road. Remember Edison and the 10,000 experiments he had to do before succeeding with the electric bulb?
- You will grow by what you MEASURE. Have weekly goals with metrics such as the number of users or revenues. Be specific!
- Do not mistake ACTIVITY for GROWTH. Adding customers and building product sales is the only real growth. Everything else is just activity and counts for little in final success. Peter Drucker was right when he kept repeating that “the only two revenue centres in the company are innovation and marketing; all the rest are costs.”
- Constantly MOVE FORWARD. More product benefits, more outlets, more geographical area, more customers, more repeat customers, less outstandings/ debts.
- Play on your STRENGTHS. No one is good at everything. The winner between the alligator and the bear is determined by the terrain. So understand your strengths and then play on them.
- Make DECISIONS FAST. Remember there are only twenty-four hours in a day and only about ten per cent of the information is really needed to make most of the decisions. Train yourself to become decisive, so that you can move forward with the execution.
- Do not focus too much on the COMPETITION. Stay aware of the players in the space you are in, but focus on getting to the top of your game. In any case, what others are doing is out of your control.
- There is no substitute for HARD WORK. The good news is that the tougher it is for you, the more difficult it is for others to replicate.
- OPPORTUNITY is everywhere. Therefore, there is no end to innovation that is possible. Think of all the “unicorns” (founders of startups with billion-dollar valuations) like Kunal Bahl of Snapdeal, Bhavish Aggarwal of Ola, Pranay Chulet of Quikr, Naveen Tewari of InMobi’s, Vijay Sekhar Sharma of PayTM, and others. They are all innovators “par excellence.”