Are You In A Cowboy Startup?

cowboy-sunsetHave you ever had the feeling that you are going a million miles an hour, working like crazy, and no one around you knows whats going on, what you are working on, or what you are focused on doing? Well, yeehah! welcome to the cowboy startup, my friends.

  1. Does every founder have a different idea where the company is going?
  2. Do you careen from one project to another just to satisfy the next prospects demands?
  3. Is there a plan? If there is a plan is it being followed? Did you hire someone to attempt to keep to a plan (sometimes known as “adult supervision”), then promptly ignore them?

Yes, my friends, some of you can look around and realize that you’re in this situation right now. But what do you do? You believe in some aspect of the product, which is of course why you are still there, but for some reason, no one is focused on THE BIG PICTURE: i.e. what are you really trying to do?

I’ve come across this a bunch of times in my startup lives and I can tell you its not easy trying to focus people – especially high powered, high performers, who seem to be doing fine in their paths. Especially some coders I know, hell they’ll start coding before they even know what they are going to do. Gold star for enthusiasm, but if the company pivots right after you start, then your code is wasted. I’m all for agile, but sometimes people push it to extremes and start with no spec at all.

Say for example you are doing a social networking clone. I’ve seen coders leap into action and code a stripped down Facebook clone in a day. The day after, the founders decided to focus on search instead. Oh well, the coders says, at least I can use some of the code for the new build. Oh, but next week they have a demo for a publishing house! Can you scrap everything you’ve done and come up with a working demo which scrapes all social media for book information and displays it in a responsive design?

One thing all successful startups have (or at least HAD when they first started) was focus. They did one thing and they did it well enough to gain enough traction to win. Think UNIX, not Windows – every command does one thing, every startup does one thing, and does it well.

If you can’t wrangle your cowboys to focus, it might be time to ride off into the sunset. Just sayin’

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