Thoughts on staying focused, incorporating input, and doing the right thing.
Last week I met with one of APX’s portfolio companies to hear about their next iteration. When they’d originally pitched to our selection team a few weeks earlier, they had a comprehensive, fun idea. We invested and they started working with our program and networks. And their new pitch was clear about what they wanted to do, focusing on B2B sales first and expanding later.
All this made sense, but one thing was missing – the spirit of the meetings we’d had before. The energy level was just right, but there wasn’t the excitement that there used to be. The two founders had mapped out their plans based on MVP learnings, conversations with mentors, and meetings with potential and current clients, but still – things felt weird. So we discussed how they’d pivoted away from their initial idea.
When we at APX decided to invest, the team and their new approach convinced us that they would build something unique in an already crowded market. And they understood that it’s not only crucial to cater to the needs of stakeholders, but also to surprise them with something genuinely new. As Henry Ford said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Either/or vs. as well as
We then spent 15 minutes brainstorming ways that the team could build their company without the either/or mindset. That being, having to decide whether to develop a sure shot for potential B2B customers or invest in a beautifully disturbing product that has features B2B users look for. We agreed on an ‘as well as’ solution: Do both! This meant focusing on building a product that people want to use.
Focus, but where?
There’s a discussion to be had about focus and what it actually involves. Which dimensions or layers? Micro or macro? And this discussion shouldn’t be taken lightly. In fact, individuals can focus and refocus quickly by creating the right systems and employing efficient organisation and time-saving processes. These are essential factors for getting things done! In the very best case, you’re able to focus on product development and preparing a fundraising presentation at the same time – it’s no longer an either/or decision.
You might think that we at APX only want you to focus on one thing – securing funding. Sure, we aim to make your startup ‘investor ready’. But we also support you with business-building, developing and iterating your product, and launching, communicating, and selling, all at the same time.
How is this doable?
Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution. Our approach is to share best practices from our diverse network. That way, you can pick the advice that will help you become successful. And there are plenty of dimensions to focus on: product, incorporation, users/customers, sales and marketing, financial modelling and organisation, and team. All founding teams are different, with different capabilities in different areas.
Since this process is highly time and energy-consuming, we look at your team’s flow and ability before we invest. We invest because we think you’ll be able to deal with all the operational topics in front of you, as well as the networking and learning opportunities we create (however overwhelming this may seem). We make sure you stay focused on building the company you dreamed of, turning your idea into hypotheses and building it through iterative processes.
We help you rise above the operational details in order to visualise success and the path that will take you there. That way, you can get back to making. Focus and execution really are essential to achieving successful with your startup, but it’s always important to think about the dimensions you want to focus on. If it is too easy, it might be too simple.