Startup Lessons: 5 Things I've Learned

Nikolai FastingNikolai Fasting

Creating a tech startup is the adventure of a lifetime, and entrepreneurship is the best teacher you’ll ever have.

While I believe in doing, learning, failing, and succeeding, knowledge from others will help you do these things with a little more wisdom. Here are the 5 most important things I learned by creating Syncano.

 The Iceberg Effect

Icebergs are notorious for being much larger than they appear at the surface of the ocean, with the majority of their mass deceptively hidden underwater. Starting a company is much like solving an iceberg of problems. When you think you've found a solution to a problem, you’ll almost always realize you’ve only scraped the surface of it. Be mentally prepared to discover the bottom of the iceberg – a seemingly simple problem could end up being the hardest to solve.

Embrace good frustration

Finding and solving problems on a consistent basis will be a really frustrating process. Embrace it. Frustration is proof that you are doing something worth doing. Tackle it by identifying what you can do right away or in the near future, and start experimenting with solutions. Learning can only really be achieved by doing. Instead of being overwhelmed by the unknown, accept your fears and fill your time and mind with solutions.

People don't change

Your team is your most valuable asset. Hiring people that are capable of scaling problem solving through rapid experimentation is going to be crucial to your success. Trust your first impression of those you meet – but if you were wrong, don’t be afraid of replacing them. Waiting to do so will cause you and them more hardship in the long term.

Culture is like oxygen

Culture is like oxygen to your startup – you need it to survive. And like oxygen is kept in balance by a complex process involving trees, plants and the ocean, your culture is kept in balance by three things: clear communication, strong adherence to principles, and leadership by example. So never compromise on culture, and never compromise on values – no matter what stage you are in. Because once these are out of balance, they’re hard to fix.

Ask for help

Always look for advice and assistance from others. Asking for help will allow you to experiment and reach your goals faster, and an underlying resilience to change – even failure – will help you succeed. However, don’t take others’ advice as gold. If you’re uncertain about something, trust your intuition.

Photo credit: NOAA's National Ocean Service

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