— Neil Dsouza
First, I would say that regardless of what people think or how great the product is, timing matters. I had a great product when I started my first company, but ultimately there are certain things that will be out of your control when it comes to market adoption. Accepting that reality is freeing. It’s also prompted me to experiment more with my current business.
My second learning is that advisors are good but trust your gut. The first time around, I built a product that everyone needed, but I got distracted by external influences on the business––things like scaling and “software.” I wound up developing a product that had 10x the capabilities than my users were asking for. We then had to strip the product back down to basics. So this is why I listen to my advisors, but then I quickly test their ideas and learn from those responses before investing a large chunk of time and money into a full-scale initiative.
I’ll add that—unfortunately for most—fundraising is much easier when you are a second-time founder. Especially in this game, networks and relationships matter, and that carries over from your first time fundraising. You never know when they will pop up or when you will need to call upon them, so approach every interaction with that in mind.
Furthermore, don’t overinvest. I think a lot of founders feel pressured to build everything themselves and, in my experience, that gets in the way of creating immediate value and seeing what works and what doesn’t. If you have an idea or want to try something, you can buy a solution off the shelf and test it quickly before hiring someone, building it in-house, and really devoting a lot of resources to it.
“Pivots” have a negative connotation, but they’re really about finding new opportunities. And new opportunities create growth. This might be obvious from my test-driven mentality, but don’t be afraid of pivoting, of going after new opportunities.