David Ventzel, who began his own startup journey in 2006, combines his first-hand experience with Accelerace’s institutional knowledge, accumulated from over 800 startups, to help founders avoid common startup pitfalls. Today, David helps hundreds of startups go through the Accelerace program to achieve product-market fit, many of them through the Beyond Beta Accelerator program.
It’s not all about scaling.
When asked about the most common mistakes, David explains that conflating causation and correlation is often the root cause of early startup issues. He describes how founders will hear podcasts or read books from successful entrepreneurs and attempt to emulate them, believing these routines to be the reason for their success. However, this interpretation can lead startups to focus on irrelevant problems, as these large companies’ situations differ highly from their own.
According to David, startups in these early stages only face one problem – product-market fit. So, while the startup culture often likes to name-check scaling as something successful companies do, it’s important to remember that fast growth is not causal to success. “Scaling something that does not work will create a spectacular failure.” Startups that live too far in the future can lose sight of the problems they actually need to solve.
So, what should startups focus on?
Instead, the primary focus of a startup in the early stages should be understanding their customer in intimate detail, a concept Accelerace calls original insight. Founders need to consider – who are their customers? What are their jobs? What do they fear? What do they care about?
David reflects on his first startup, “We sold at the time a product to marketers in large consumer brands, and I had never worked at a large consumer brand in my life. Never been a marketer. Even the language they use we didn’t know. So we struggled with that concept, and all startups struggle with it, too.”
To fill these knowledge gaps, David recommends startups immerse themselves with their target audience. “Go work with them. Ask to shadow them or be their assistant for a week. Develop a relationship with them where you’re not selling anything, but learning what they do, how they think, and how they feel.” This will help startups build a product that fits the market, develop truly relevant features, and ultimately help them reach the next stage of their journey.