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.