If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to know what you are trying to achieve.
I spend a bit of time mentoring and working with other start-ups. The single most common trend among successful start-ups is a clear sense of purpose, direction and – most importantly – vision.
Founders without vision end up meandering around, “pivoting” (a word I despise) and delivering an unfocused offering that is difficult to understand.
The second most important characteristic is thinking big.
The work required to build a web service that is a small idea is probably 80% of what is required to build a really, really, really big idea.
Version one of Facebook was built in a month. The first version of Instagram was up in two weeks.
Having a big idea does not mean it needs to be a complicated idea.
Google is a complicated idea. Facebook and Instagram are not complicated ideas. They are simply relational databases used at scale.
Before you start, you need an idea that can scale and solve a problem that is relevant to most people or companies on this planet.
If your instincts are telling you that your idea isn’t a big idea, then don’t start. Wait until you have a big idea, then start.
You’ll know whether you have the right idea that is in reach of your capabilities because you won’t be able to sleep at night.
If you have a clear vision and a focused purpose, you end up needing and spending a lot less than you think.
Having vision is like having a map. All you need to do is drive along the right roads and you’ll get there.
Not everyone has vision. Founders often go through rounds and rounds of funding trying to “figure it out”, but the many great entrepreneurs woke up before they registered their company name, and more or less had their business model figured out.
When you have vision you end up needing a lot less money than you think, simply because most of the thinking work around your overall concept and direction is taken care of.
Founders with vision won’t bloat the organisation with “experts” that those who lack vision might need.
When you have vision, what you need are people who can do: People who can build stuff. People who can turn your vision into a working thing and make it brilliant, and people who can sell it.
This is how small start-ups achieve amazing things. All you need are one or two founders with a strong vision, a couple of developers and a designer. That’s all you need.
Think Instagram, Google, Dropbox, Twitter, Square and Tumblr.
Having vision does not mean you need to know how to code. What is means is that you are able to explain to your team exactly what it is you want to achieve, down to the tiniest detail.
You shouldn’t expect your developers to be visionaries. If they are visionary, that is great, but it’s not their job.
Their job is to build stuff that scales and is reliable. They like to be handed a spec or challenge, and asked to make it work well.
That is what they like to do and that is what they are good at. Designers are not product visionaries. They like to be given direction and boundaries, then told to make it look and feel awesome. Their job requires a lot of vision, but it’s a different kind of vision.
So if you want to do something awesome, or you want to invest in someone awesome, make sure the vision is clear, because people who know what they want, end up getting what they want.