Battling The Entrepreneur's Curse

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I couldn't launch. It wasn't good enough. It would fail. I'd fail. 

The next prototype would be better. I'd launch then, next month.

Except I did launch. It was good enough. I didn't need another prototype.

And it was a success. I was a success.

But thanks to the Entrepreneur's Curse, it nearly never happened.

The Entrepreneur's Curse resurfaced few months later when I found myself having a conversation with a startup sitting on great technology. They'd been working on it for years, and had never launched. 

They couldn't, you see, because it wasn't good enough. The next prototype would be way better. They told me they'd fail if they launched. 

They never did launch. They did fail.

Common wisdom, your family and friends, colleagues, bosses, even mentors and advisers, will often tell you that you have to plan. 

Validate until certainty. Remove all risk. 

The only problem with that is that you can't remove all risk.... In almost every case, the market only knows what it wants when it sees it. And until you put it on sale, in the wild, beyond your ability to influence the feedback, you simply can't know with certainty if your product will be a success*.

I've launched many products successfully. A few less so. 

I would never have launched my first, and most successful product (the orbis Ring Flash), without the intervention of a close friend of mine who told me in no uncertain terms that it was ready for launch. It was good enough. It was great! He gently told me to shut the f*&£ up when I told him how much better the next prototype was going to be. 

When I was struck by similar doubts about ensuing products, I remembered the lesson I'd learnt from the first, quieted my inner voice that they weren't ready for launch, and I launched. Successfully, in most cases (you'll always have a failure here and there).

Now, working as a consultant, I find that established companies all too often are struck by similar curses. They're always different, and always the same; curse of reluctance, of inaction. The Entrepreneur's Curse

Have you ever said these to yourself? D'you have colleagues who have?

  • Don't hire, I'm still not certain we'll need to. I'll be certain next month. (you won't, get hiring now)
  • Don't fire, I'll find a place for them next week. (you won't, start managing them better now)
  • Don't commit to that, I'm still not certain we should. I will be next month. (you won't, commit or forget about it)
  • Don't share ideas, projects, challenges, roadmaps. I'll lose the company's 'secret sauce' if we do. (you won't, your secret sauce ain't that)
  • Don't delegate; the responsibilities I love, and am great at handling, will change, and I might not be as great in my new role. (you will be, delegate everything you can)
  • Don't buy it when we can make it! (buy it, don't make it, if it's not shippable product)

The Entrepreneur's Curse stands in your way of greatness.

The number of times that inaction is the right path are few, compared to the times that a default to action is the right way forward.

So in practise, you have to launch when it feels wrong. You have to act when it feels wrong.

All the talk of getting out of your comfort-zone is mostly BS, but in these cases it's dead accurate; you will feel massive self-doubt, because you're pushing through our natural resistance to change. 

It feels viscerally like you're doing something wrong.

It is the the very same thing that many people are telling you not to do. Your inner voice is probably telling you to stop. 

Because it's not ready. Even when it is. 

So as Mark Twain famously said: "The secret of getting ahead is getting started."

Do it now. Launch it. Get selling. Get started.

If you'd like help launching, or pushing through your natural resistance to change and evolution at any stage of your company's growth, call me.


PS If you're at all inclined to believe in karma, or self-perpetuating cycles, your inner voice can go crazy; so much so that your own doubts start feeding themselves, getting in your way and damaging your success. This can be dangerous... The only way I've found to avoid this is to surround yourself with people who've done this before; they're the only ones that truly understand.

*You can greatly reduce risk with validation (more on that soon), but never remove it.

James Madelin

Consumer durables, apps, insurance and SaaS business consultant.