Treating ‘connections’ as transactional is not going to get you far. And those who play with the long-term mindset fully embrace the value of being a giver, connector, introducer, and so on.
This could mean many things, but it boils down to creating true value, whether that is for your community, your peers, or your customers. Doing something to expect something in return won’t work.
Instead, do everything that is in your control without expecting anything in return. Focus on nurturing meaningful relationships with the startup ecosystem in general. That could be offering your time or your network, making introductions where possible, giving feedback to peers, etc.
Do it all with an altruistic and giver mindset.
Another helpful piece of advice I got during this time was that people want to invest in lines, not dots. Build a cadence with your stakeholders in advance so that you can keep them informed about your progress, struggles, learnings, developments, and more.
There are numerous tools available today, including the monthly updates software, Paperstreet. The most useful part of sending these monthly updates was the motivation to stay accountable and on top of things.
And what I did not realize was that you don’t need to have customers or revenue to be able to share ‘real’ updates. Share whatever you are learning in this process, the experiments you are doing, what failed, what worked, what you are trying next, what you need help with, and so on.
Ask for feedback, ask for advice, ask for introductions.
This one point is singlehandedly the one that has made being a startup founder so worthwhile. Take the ‘work’ out of networking and genuinely invest your time in connecting with people you admire and want to learn from. It could be founders, mentors, advisors, and customers.
I had never put much effort into sharing my story online or actively making connections on Twitter, or taking the time to document my lessons on Medium. Yet, over time I realized that the maximum value I have got is from the network I have built from these places — online and offline.
By talking to more people about Geeks and Experts, I’ve got tons of feedback, I’ve generated partnerships, I’ve made multiple pivots, I’ve got insights on scrapping or changing features, and so on.
Network without extracting anything out of it.
Most business books on founders are full of anecdotes highlighting the power of pivots, experiments, and leading with your gut. No matter at what stage you’re at — keep moving, fast. Or as fast as possible.
Whether you need to launch and ship an MVP you are ashamed of, whether you need to change your target audience or test your GTM or change your product or rethink it completely, or adjust your team’s dynamics, do it soon.
You might not have all the information you need to make a perfect decision that will be 100% successful, but you have to work with it either way. It’s not about making hasty or impulsive decisions but about not overthinking.
Analysis paralysis can slow things down, so move with what you know.