Winning startups cross the finish line looking very different than what their founders imagined on Day One.
I have found the histories of famous (and lesser-known) enterprises support that finding.
- Facebook moved from males ogling local college women to the global social networking gorilla.
- Google morphed from search engine to on-line advertising behemoth.
- Intel climbed the value added ladder from individual transistors to integrated circuits to complex microprocessors.
- Think how different Apple has become from its first personal computer days.
What started out ends up very different.
That's a characteristic of startups that serial entrepreneurs quickly learn.
Last week I listened to an impressive founder whose hard work and wise decisions led to some recent significant success. I've had the privilege of watching her leadership in action over several years and have concluded that the company's history also maps the above startup characteristic.
I was attending a Cornell Entreprenerial Network event in Silicon Valley and on the discussion panel was the founder and CEO of The Dealmap, Jennifer Dulski. She recently sold her startup, The Dealmap, to Google.
Her success is the story of a determined and very able first-time founder CEO who began with an idea for a new enterprise and ended up with a very different -- and winning -- business. She showed that it is not too difficult to get started, but it definitely is difficult to grow an idea quickly into a very large enterprise.
The process she followed I label a "startup morphing". She began with Business 1, launched it, watched it grow, assessed its future and decided to significantly alter that idea into what became Business 2. (Bear with me as I make my point with these simplified examples -- leading real startups is both complex and very difficult).
Business 2 was launched a short time thereafter and like its predecessor, was modest in its appeal to users, yet also was growing and moderately popular. So Jennifer made another decision, to morph from lessons learned and launch Business 3. That one became The Dealmap (now owned by Google).
All this took place in less than four years. Fast, yes indeed. Successful, right again. Different than the first idea, you bet!
That is how it is done.
And it is being done right now all around this planet. (I just got an email from a serial entrepreneur I've been following: "We've gone viral!") That's Business Number 3 for him.
BOTTOM LINE: So that's how it's done in the real world of real startups. The first idea is just the starting idea. What you end up winning with is going to be very different than what you began with. Veterans of new enterprises make on-the-fly changes, morphing from change to change until they have The Great Thing that propells the lastest version to greatness (It's got "WOW!"). That startup morphing is a special skill they use to build their unfair advantage. When you can do that, you'll stand out from the herd competing for employees, venture capital and customers.
I wish you The Best on your Adventure!