Unlocking Your Startups Recipe (Hint: It’s Not a Playbook)


After spending a week in Peru (an emerging startup community with a ton of potential) with a bunch of new entrepreneurs, I came away with a thought about those troublesome formative days/weeks you agonize over while building your company. This thought is intensified in new emerging startup communities where there are not as many teaching moments for new founders to easily discover.

The first sign of a good entrepreneur is their willingness to find ways to learn the rules of the game.

These include:

  • Socializing your idea without fear or inhibition
  • Networking to find informal advisors
  • Meetups to share best practices with fellow founders
  • Baking in a customer development over a product development approach
  • Gathering crude assets in order to test your idea

All of these activities represent a startup attitude of “discovery” rather than building.

As a serial founder and investor that regularly meets with entrepreneurs, most of them just beginning to convert their idea into a company, I get the feeling that these founders are asking me for the secret playbook. If only I would share with them the book we ran at MapQuest more than 20 years ago, they too could create a blockbuster. Well that playbook has come and gone never to be seen again.

However, the playbook approach is useless anyhow, regardless of its age. I liken a startup playbook to that of a mechanic putting on new brakes; there really isn’t any variability in that process. You just need to follow the playbook.

The most important lesson to learn about business building; There is no one-size-fits-all playbook!

Business building is a series of experiments, iterations or steps that if lucky will reveal a great product that addresses an obvious need for a specific audience.

The better attitude is to think more like a master chef. The best chefs have a set of cooking principles that they apply to a specific meal (product) but the best meal mixes in unique ingredients in a proportion and style of preparation that deliver an wished-for experience. Imagine if every meal followed an exact playbook.

First time and repeat startup victims, this time why do you think more like a master chef than a mechanic.

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