What Mistakes Are Killing Your Startup? #8: Obstinacy

Recently I had the chance to moderate a panel of entrepreneurs in the Sports Industry Conference we organize every year in IESE in the framework of the Tennis Barcelona Open. I know the 2 founders (Luca Carlucci founded www.bidaway.com ; Francis Casado founded www.3ddigitalvenue.com) for years now and I really feel they are on the right track experiencing nice growth with their “last” business model…

What do I mean by last Business Model? I mean that when I met them for the first time a few years ago and they pitched me their ideas…well it was quite different from what they are doing nowand this is why they are successful.

Flexibility and adaptability are 2 of the most necessary skills you need to be successful at leading a start-up for the 5 following reasons:

  1. “No plan survives the interaction with customers/users” – Steve Blank.
  2. While iterating on your product and service; you will discover needs you did not anticipate.
  3. You do not know your market till you try to sell…
  4. Often ideas are thought to be developed for the B2C market when B2B is the natural fit; not to mention that this is the only way to generate recurrent revenues early in the launching process.
  5. Assumptions and hypothesis are the biggest enemies of the entrepreneurs.

Let me be more specific, in line with Tom Eisenmann: the risks you are facing when driven by obstinacy are mortal to your venture, you may:

  1. Fail to recruit a great team because you don’t recognize your own shortcomings or you are unwilling to delegate.
  2. Fail to pivot because, in some cases, an overconfident entrepreneur simply cannot comprehend that customers might be rejecting their product.
  3. Scale prematurely due to an impatient drive to see your vision become a reality.
  4. Stay in stealth mode too long feeling no need to secure early market feedback.
  5. Provoke cofounder disputes by battling ceaselessly for dominance and control of the venture’s direction.
  6. And last but not least; fail to secure financing from VC’s for your lack of constructive leadership.

How can you deal with it?

Listen to others, be open-minded, control yourself; be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. In brief: ask yourself the right questions: how coachable are you as an entrepreneur? Do you really think that the initial vision is THE only way? That users and customers cannot bring value to your value proposition?

And finally…how do you know you are on the right track?

In words of Y Combinator Paul Graham founder: “Openness to new ideas has to be tuned just right. Switching to a new idea every week will be equally fatal. Is there some kind of external test you can use? One is to ask whether the ideas represent some kind of progression. If in each new idea you’re able to re-use most of what you built for the previous ones, then you’re probably in a process that converges. Whereas if you keep restarting from scratch, that’s a bad sign”.

Go. Talk to your customers and listen to their needs. They’ll show you the way.

Posts of the series:

#1 Single Founder

#2 Bad Location

#3 Marginal Niche

#4 Confusing an Accessible Market with a Potential One

#5 and #6: Launching too Early… or too Late

#7: Fights Between Founders

#8: Obstinacy



About Mathieu Carenzo

Mathieu worked in different positions in Europe and America mostly in corporate entrepreneur positions. After an experience in Danone to start his career, he worked in the helicopter branch of EADS: Eurocopter. He led the growth of the company in Mexico, Caribbean, and Central America building his expertise in the settlement of new structures and development of new markets. He is a Business Angel investing in early stage high growth potential new ventures (holding 2 board seats) and leads the growth of the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Spain.

2 thoughts on “What Mistakes Are Killing Your Startup? #8: Obstinacy

  1. Having an awesome product is one thing, but marketing is 80% of the battle. Every successful founder needs to have some kind of developed marketing strategy.

  2. this is actually true to start up in south east Asia, where almost 95% of the start-ups die in the first year. Thank for sharing!

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