It Usually Doesn’t Work the First Time

In the many startups that I’ve worked in/with or got to know in my experiences, there is one thing that almost always rings true: the initial idea and incarnation of the company isn’t the one that results in the end. In other words, whatever the early notion of the business, it just doesn’t work as planned.

Instead, startups after they’re first formed go through a stage of shifting and weaving, as they find the road which is the right path. Customers react differently than anticipated, revenue streams morph as the value proposition becomes defined, and costs (in time and money) of development and product vary.

Early stage startups are about experimentation. Good entrepreneurs know that.

But do the other constituents of a startup (employees, investors, advisors, customers, etc.) know it? Entrepreneurs should set appropriate expectations with others about how much experimentation is needed given their current stage. This process is difficult given that it must be weighed with confidence in the current plan.

When the experimentation works, it becomes innovation. When it doesn’t, the experimentation can become frustration. But those early frustrating experiences provide learning and market information which couldn’t have been gathered via any other means. Without the experience of small failures, a startup will not experience big successes.

Take a straw poll for yourself, and ask a successful entrepreneur if the business he set out to create is the one today s/he finds him/herself in charge of (or recently exited from). Somehow along the way s/he kept everyone involved excited about the endeavor during the riskiest stage of the company – the beginning.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by About.com where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.

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