To be an entrepreneur rid yourself of illusions

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Ali Elouafiq has cofounded, with Ali Lakrakbi, iMote, a connected device that help localize one’s cellphone and keys. Now, about to start a crowdfunding campaign, the entrepreneur has decided to share what he learnt during this product design period.

When Ali and I started working officially on iMote we were quick to meet with our mentor. He, Yassine Kachani of Hidden Founders, was candid with us and asked: “Guys, are you having at least 10 customer interviews each day?” It was alien to us. 10 interviews a day for four weeks? We wondered why we would need that, when we thought this would be a product just for geeks and hackers. But we thought we’d give it a shot. 

Soon we discovered that girls with creative tastes were really interested in the product, they were the ones getting the most out of it. That moment was an epiphany for us. 

We got to know every single detail of what we needed to present to a potential customer, from prices, message, colors, to channels of distribution. 

The wisdom was out there, spread throughout our meetings with customers, and one of the first lessons we learned along the way was that this process is not about being lean or being validated but rather about getting rid of as many delusions as possible. 

On our journey we came across many delusions and we have grouped them here in order to help eliminate them. 

Motion vs Progress: make the difference 

I found myself taking too much time on the details of my product, details of the campaign, before the essence was validated. When you do this you are not a perfectionist, you are just a proactive procrastinator. Even when you are attending important events, networking is not a purpose, it’s not a goal - you are in motion but you are not in progress.

If you can’t measure your work and tasks with tangible results, you are just wasting time. Learn to give up on things that don’t have direct results.

Action vs Reaction: the feedback that matters the most

Customer feed-back is a pep-talk that should be handled with care. It’s great for motivation but what is more important is getting action from the people you are talking to. When we wanted to understand our real customer in IMOTE we asked for how much, and when, they’d be willing to buy it.

When you are doing customer validation, or looking for a partner, knocking on the doors of investors, don’t stop at the reaction level “oh this is so cool”, look for an action, an engagement, a signature on the dotted line.  

Fat Deals vs Fit Deals

The big but slow deal that can make your startup unhealthy, versus the small and fast that can make your startup run like crazy. 

When you own 75% of nothing, its nothing. Take equity as an investment by itself. “I will give up 10% of my equity on a $50,000 investment, in order to multiply by 10 my valuation by the end of the coming six months”. 

Equally, when you go about hiring, don’t waste your time being picky about equity, think of the investment. 

Big deals                                             Small deals 

Longer negotiation time                        Faster negotiations

Many people that take the decision        Individual decision making 

Multiple deferred payments                   Full upfront payments

Needs a bigger team                            Small team required 

Mistakes make you start again              Mistakes are good to learn from 

Fit Cash vs Fat Cash: 

When I started Blue Sky Information Security four years ago, when the security market was still blooming, I tried to look for those big clients with big checks, with big reputations, to add them to my portfolio. If we got actually some big clients like Salesforce, but we definitely lost time in doing so. 

Similarly, if you are looking for investments do not look for huge investments, but look for small progressive investments, That match specific milestones of your growth. 

Conclusion

Creative imagination is a key characteristic of any founder. Founders are dreamers by nature, if they didn’t have their crazy ideas then they wouldn’t leave their comfort zone. However, these dreams can fall into two categories: genius ideas and delusions. 

Your first job as a founder is to not be delusional. Its very simple, accept only facts, question all decisions, be humble, and start listening. 

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