A few weeks ago I was asked to give a talk at one of the most distinguished elite technological units in the Israeli Defense Forces. The goal was to expose them to product development and entrepreneurship in the startup world. I thought it through and decided to try and visualize my experience through dimensional thinking and data points which to depict the entrepreneurial experience. I used scientific language and data visualization to tell my story as an entrepreneur.
The Entrepreneurial Playfield
Imagine that you could map the entrepreneurial experience using a set of coordinates. In my view, the playfield of any entrepreneur includes a surface (composed of the x and y axis) which map your actions- what you do during your entrepreneurial journey. The altitudinal dimension (the z axis) marks your feelings — how you feel at different time of this journey — are you happy, sad, motivated etc. This combination of your emotions and your actions are the essence of any experience of an entrepreneur and compose your space in the world.
Entrepreneurial Data Points
I defined 6 types of data point types which compose and illustrate the experience of any entrepreneur during his journey (they could be positioned in the coordinate system we just defined):
Starting Point — the question where do you start is one which many entrepreneurs or people who would like to become ones ask themselves. “I have an idea for an app”, or “an idea for a startup”, or you just want to become an entrepreneur, what do you do? My view on this is that a great entrepreneur starts with a problem — the starting point. To build a great product or a great company you must find a problem your are passionate to solve and then ask yourself “does this problem really worth solving?”. You should talk to people, observe what they do and start experimenting with prototypes and sketches in order to find out if this is a problem worth solving. But whatever you do — start with the problem.
Decision Point — The most pervasive type of data points in the life of an entrepreneur are decision points. You will face critical decision points during your journey such as “should I get an investment from a certain investor?” or “should I pivot from the original product”. You will also face daily decision points such as hiring developers or not and small yet important decisions such as should you have a meeting or let your team communicate and solve the issue themselves without a formal meeting. I think that the most important thing you need to do when facing a decision point is know the data you collected about it and make quick decisions. Then, correct your actions along the way. The worst thing you could do is not decide at all and postpone decisions. If you wait and hesitate you will lose momentum and knowledge. You rather fail fast and correct your decision along the way then wait and learn nothing about your decision. If you did basic risk analysis and made a knowledgeable decision, there is 30% you will get it wrong and 70% you will get it right. It’s better to start with 70% success rate and improve it then doing nothing.
Focal Point — as an entrepreneur you will find yourself working and feeling you are all over the place. You will do product development, design, coding, marketing, you will manage a team and raise capital. Anyone could easily get lost in all those tasks and lose your focus. In addition, you will probably fall in love with your design and your product — entrepreneurs think their idea is the best product and are blinded by adding new features and polishing their current design. But are you building the right products? are you solving the real problem? In other words, it is extremely easy to lose focus as an entrepreneur. This is why I defined 4 focal point you should think about when feeling distracted and lost in the way:
Think of these 4 focal points when you feel like you are distracted and defocused. It will help you focus on the core missions and how you can really progress and scale.
- Users — There is nothing more important for your company and product than understanding your users. Being user focused will help you plan and make better and valuable decisions. Your users bring you back to reality and to what’s important. They tell you the truth about your product, your goals and your problem. They are brutally honest by their actions and that’s a good thing.
- Goals — defining goals will help you focus on success. “Are you on the right track or not?”, “Are your actions valuable or a waste of times?”. If you do not have clear goals you can’t have clear actions and your team cannot be aligned with your vision. Define clear goals to get everyone on board toward your vision and to determine if you are successful or need to change things to increase your chances of success. Your Goals mark your destination point along your journey. It doesn’t matter if you do all this way to reach the wrong destination, right?
- Metrics — Metrics are what bound you to the numbers — the data, and let you know if you achieved the goals you defined with your team. If you set a goal to build the coolest product, how do you measure your success? coolness level? but if you set your goal to increase retention by 100%, or increase engagement by 70%. you have a tangible goal and metrics so you and your team could measure and determine if you succeeded or not. These are like the coordinate in the compass you use to get to your destination points.
- Problem — back to the starting point, remember that if your problem is worth being solved you need to feel like everyday is your first day and you learn more and more about your problem, your users and your goals. It is easy to get carried away with adding cool features, or raising capital. But always think of your problem when you get defocused and distracted.
Two more critical data points in the life of an entrepreneur are depict his or her emotional state. The ups and the downs. The celebration moments and the sad moments.
Maximum Point — These are points when you feel high, when you are so excited you cannot fall asleep and when you are on top of the world — Nothing can stop you. I had moments like these when we launched our product for the first time and when we presented our company in conferences and pitch nights. Enjoy these moments but be aware not to get carried away and always think how to convert these moments into focal points right away to move on towards achieving your goals.
Minimum Point — These points are the worst in the life of an entrepreneur. But you will have many of those, sorry. These points are when you feel like nothing you do works, that you do not have motivation to get up from bed in the morning. I had many of those, when I got rejection after rejection from investors and when no one came after we launch the first version of our product. The question is how do you get up on your feet fast after those minimum points. You guessed it right, you turn it into a focal point and focus on what’s important Your users, goals, metrics and the problem you are soling.
Finally, the Ending Point — here I like to divide it to two types of ending points — local and global.
Global Ending Point — a global ending point illustrates your journey as an entrepreneur. If you are an entrepreneur at heart, there is no global ending point! you never stop building and creating. If the problem you are trying to solve is a real big one and you are passionate about solving it, you will find a way solve it. If not with this product, with the next one.
Local Ending Point — this point illustrates the end of a project, a company or a product you work on. This is a real tough one and it is often combined with a minimum point, a decision point and a focal point. The decision to give up on a startup, to break up with your team and giving up on your “dream” is extremely emotional. However, you should always convert this point into a decision and focal point. When we decided to move on from Mobifile we used our goals and metrics to understand if we achieved success. These will help you put in perspective the emotional aspect of terminating a project, and make your decisions in a reasonable manner. The numbers will tell you what to do and bring you back to reality. Whatever you decide, always remember that this is a local ending point and not a global one — keep on going and solve real problems you are passionate about, there are many out there and waiting just for you to be solved.
In conclusion, being an entrepreneur is full of highs, lows, new starts and tough decisions, but never forget the big picture — if you connect all those data points you will find out that together they compose something bigger than yourself — your impact on this world, the change you make in people’s lives.
The Full presentation of what’s the point of being an entrepreneur: