Startups Need Conviction

Eric Dodds is a first-year Program Manager at South Carolina’s finest accelerator, The Iron Yard. Back in January we talked Eric into sharing his experiences as he navigates his way through his first program (The Iron Yard’s second) and share the good, the bad, and the ugly about working at an accelerator. Take it away Eric…

The Startup Life™ is thickly shrouded with threats of difficulty. First you’re required to have an astoundingly novel idea that promises to capture a gigantic industry or market. (Or at least be able to convince people of those things.) Next, you need a killer team, preferably one with a brilliant engineer co-founder who’s willing to give up a six-figure income to work tirelessly on your product.

Later you discover that the importance of the idea pales in comparison to execution: if you can’t ship, you’re dead in the water. Courting VCs and negotiating term sheets, if you’re one of the lucky few to beat that many levels and face the boss, is a black art in and of itself, and one wrong step can flush everything you’ve worked for down the drain. Work/life balance as most know isn’t even part of the equation for many entrepreneurs.

After running an accelerator program for 8 months, though, I’ve learned that one of the most trying hurdles is the minefield of different ‘advice’ startups get along the way.

Early stage companies – especially those in mentorship-driven programs – face an inordinate flood of conflicting opinions on every aspect of their company. From inconsequential design details to overall strategy, teams can receive unending praise and completely deflating interrogation in the same day. Both types of feedback come from successful people who’s resumés command a level of respect.

If you don’t have strong conviction about your product and company, incongruous advice can toss you like a row boat in a hurricane. If you question your your compass enough times, it can be hard to remember why you started the journey in the first place.

It’s true that stubbornness has killed many companies, but requiring clear and convincing evidence to change has made some of the most successful businesses in the world just that.

There is no lack of smart people, good ideas, and money to put behind them. My bet will be on teams with real conviction.

Photo Credit:Michael Tapp under Creative Commons license.