Non-Obvious, But Obvious

“First time founders focus on product, second time founders focus on distribution”

There are a lot of non-obvious, obvious things about starting a startup: Be a Delaware C-corp if you want to raise capital, talk to your customer all the time, launch fast and figure out how to grow… and most of them are tidbits of knowledge you can hear as a first time founder, but won’t understand until you are a second time founder. 99% of these non-obvious, obvious things are earned through experience and industry expertise while building a trusted network of co-workers and mentors.

In order to identify these non-obvious things, you merely need to speak with two different founders - one who just started their first startup for the first time, one who has built a startup over five years, failed, and is starting a new one. The first time founder is pulling all the knobs and levers for their first time and making a lot of major assumptions about how the fundraising, sales and management processes work, while the weathered startup veteran has tempered expectations, having been in every situation previously with a firm understanding of what to expect.

Now, the first time founders who succeed do three things that other first time founders do not. And it’s non-obvious, yet obvious.

  • They embrace that they do not have all the right answers, but they also know that someone does and spend a lot of time identifying the right people.

  • They are capable of identifying which decisions are important to spend time on, and which ones are not. They see depth of decision making very clearly.

  • They hear advice from everyone, but they only take advice seriously from a chosen few. The ability to pick who to listen to and who not to listen to, is an amazing skill set that great founders have.

So really, the non-obvious thing, is that great founders have the ability to filter decisions and people, in order to identify priorities and where to spend their time. That is the most crucial skill that second time founders gain through experience, and great first time founders find on instinct.