Together with most people, I was deeply saddened by the loss of Steve Jobs. He inspired so many and set a very high standard for anyone looking to innovate and create products. Even in his death, he inspired us through videos and articles that everybody posted after hearing the bad news.
Perhaps most famously, Steve Jobs said in his Stanford graduation speech: “trust in something”. How does that apply to startups and their founders? A startup is almost always a leap of faith, by a group of people that truly believe that they are creating the next Apple or Facebook. So, what should they trust in to have a chance at making it?
It’s just two things:
Startup founders have to truly believe that they are solving a real and a really important problem. Almost always, in order for them to truly believe that, it has to be personal. They must have experienced the problem first hand, and then set out to solve it. That feeds their passion which is critical to success. When the problem is personal, the founder is much more determined to keep working on it after a setback. That passion and the resulting perseverence is what enables a startup to be successful, because invariably they will hit a number of roadblocks, one after another, before becoming an “overnight success“.
The founders have to believe in each other’s capabilities and motivation. They have to trust that collectively they will be able to solve the problems they will encounter along the way, because they have the combined skills necessary. They also have to trust that each of them passionately believes in what they are doing – solving that one very important problem. Many non-technical founders fail because they start their journey with a CTO who doesn’t care enough about the problem they are solving. Worse yet, they start with an outsourcing firm that almost never cares about it. Oftentimes, they don’t have the right skills. Only personal experience working together between the founders prior to getting involved in a startup can ensure this vital trust.
If you are a CEO or a founder of a startup, you have to believe that the problem you are solving is really important and that the people you are working with are both capable and dedicated to solving it. If you have any doubt, then it is time to ask “why” and take action.