Don’t do startups that everyone likes

Let’s admit it. When you tell someone about your idea, you want them to like it. You are wired to crave for being liked all the time, whatever you do. And I’ve been the same, for now. I decided to change it, because I realized how toxic those words – “I LIKE IT!” – are. It happened quite recently.

Igor and I have been working on Mentegram for two years. It’s been an amazing journey with an amazing team and people we met. I’m still very passionate about it, because I see how we are going to help many people improve their mental health conditions and therefore their lives. I really like this mission that Mentegram has. Being able to improve health of millions is very inspiring and motivating. And that leads to a problem that we haven’t expected.

I’m pretty sure that you faced the problem as well, although you may have not realized it yet. Almost everyone I talked about Mentegram to said that they really liked the idea. It’s a new technology, helping people and addressing the issue that has still been stigmatized. The feedback was 99% positive and that made us blind. Although we knew that users and customers are the only real validation, the amount of positive feedback was very hard to handle. We got a false perception that it’s only a matter of days and weeks to get those people, mostly psychologists, pay us.

build-startups-that-people-pay-for

As you expect, most of them didn’t end up paying us. It took us some time to realize that. We couldn’t see the forest for the trees. This is why it’s so important to discuss top level goals and review things that happen, while not thinking about the day-to-day agenda. Even better when you have a mentor and investors to talk to (thanks Ken, Miska and Ivo). It’s really interesting how you can get fooled even when you know the trick. And scary as well.

Don't do a #startup that everyone likes, do the startup that everyone pays for. Click To Tweet

It all happened because of those great to hear words “I like it”. I have learned the hard way, but I have. And it was one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned so far. Knowing something is great. But it means almost nothing when you can’t execute it.

So what would I do to make sure that it’s not going to happen again?

Make sure that “I like it” aren’t just some empty words. If you don’t seize the opportunity that comes from it, you are going to lose. Because it’s going to give you that false feeling of validating you product, idea, whatever. Make sure that every “I like it” is followed by an action. Switching business cards, scheduling a follow up meeting, getting an introduction, anything.

Don’t make the same mistakes and realize how toxic “I like it” could be everytime you hear it. And not only when doing business.

Image credit: Flickr

  • Great post Milan! Absolutely true the only real tangible validation however is money on the table. We got there pretty early with our 1st client, but after that we were struggling to get to our next paying customers for a long time. The key here is the reason why they bought – our 1st client was in desperate need of the product so they paid, but we couldnt find others like him for a long time so the market fit wasnt there just yet. Then we found out that the value proposition that we offer and they want did not exactly match or we didnt deliver on it as much, although we thought strongly that it did. I think a lot of it with both of our companies is that the industries we are in are just not as innovative and to really transform them you have to be patient (have a lot of cash) and have to have a very wide scope of range to identify from the 1000s of potential customers the few that are willing to give it a go and proof your value to the rest. I wish you good luck and am sure you will prevail!

    • Thanks 🙂 That’s a great point. I absolutely agree, just one paying customer doesn’t validate your product.

      • Unfortunately not even 2 or 3 😀 its a good start, but definitely not there yet