Friday, June 11, 2010

Iteration and the Start-up Path

Mark Gainey, the founder of KANA, once told me that the hardest part of the entrepreneurial journey is the first step. But that once begun, the journey takes on a life of its own.

The journey opens up into an endless series of forks in the road, where each fork taken provides new context, learnings, and guidance.  Each fork provides both a new direction and momentum with which to carry the company and team on wards. If you listen to experience start-up people, they emit a wisdom and authenticity that comes from that journey - for it is a humbling one full of challenge and challenges overcome by tenacity, hard work, and a healthy dose of luck.

Since, I have been at Widgetbox, we have evolved into a market focus and set of product offerings that I could have never predicted on my first day on the job. What began as a widget platform, is now powering ad units for the world's largest brands and publishers. In addition, HTML5 has opened up an entirely new market opportunity for our widgetserver runtime and platform.  The ability to pivot, to make decisions based on the market's guidance, and the insights that come from iteration are fundamental.

Great ideas are a function of context - white boards do not allow for great ideas, rather great ideas and insights require a gestation period of months and develop over a series of small moments - rejection, minor tweaks, and finally clarity and insight emerge as the product evolves to fit the market need.  Importantly, the particular nature of a start-ups journey makes it hard for others to follow and gives rise to the myth of overnight success when all of a sudden the company meets the market need far ahead of the competition.

While a certain direction needs to be set a priori - the strawman is simply that - an early hypothesis that brings resources together - both human and financial capital. Then the market takes over and the process of learning begins.

My journey required an ability, uncomfortable for me, to live with ambiguity - to trust in the team to walk the journey together - not always certain of the final destination but confident that we had the flexibility and determination to orient to a good place over time - one step at a time.

Moreover, the early uncertainty fades as the market opportunity is better characterized and understood and the early conviction becomes steeled by a certainty that the company is right and onto something great!

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Will. Congrats to you and everyone at widgetbox! Good luck on the journey!