boltRomain Simon on SaaS & tech

The 3 most important things every startup founder should focus on

February 7, 2016

Every early-stage startup founders should have only one thing in mind : finding a Product-Market Fit. As it says, this involves two things : product and market. Once it is found, the focus changes and should be only on main thing : people.

Before Product-Market fit... focus on Product & Market

As an early-stage startup founder finding a Product-Market Fit (PMF) is the first priority. This means that in the first stage of your statups, you should have at this time only two focuses :

  1. Building an awesome product
  2. Finding customers who will buy this product

Or if you are an adept of Lean Startup, these should come in this order :

  1. Finding potential customers
  2. And then building a great product for them

But you get the idea.

Unless you are able to build a product and sell it by yourself (which is what I did in the early stages of Datananas, but requires to be a bit schizophrenic) you will need a co-founder. This is why early-stage statup team are generally composed by 2/3 peoples :

  1. The Tech guy who builds something
  2. The Hustler who sells it

In my opinion, this is why the best early-stage startup founders are fast-learners : they can do software development, UX, marketing, sales, etc… all at the same time. They talk to a customer and build the ideal product for them at the same time and avoid information loss.

Good early-stage startup founders are not the best in the world for each job (of course not). They can multi-task and whatever they have to do, they will find a way.

After Product-Market fit, focus on People

This might sound stupid that hiring and keeping the best talents is such an important thing in a company, and it is not the primarly thing taught in Business Schools. Human Resources should be the only focus after the Product-Market Fit.

You built something cool, and people buy it. Great.

The question is now : How will you scale the business ?

The answer might seem simple: by selling more, and building some other great features/products.

You won't scale your early-stage startup by yourself.

This is why you need to find people that are better than yourself for each task. If the early-stage founder can do everything, the post-PMF founder is able to find people that are better than him for each job.

How to hire sales & tech superstars

I know two books that are worth reading about hiring great people :

The best book I know for hiring great Software Developers is Smart and Gets Things Done by Joel Spolsky (Microsoft, Stack Overflow, Trello). The title sums up what you should be looking for in Engineering talents : they are smart and they get things done.

This is why I adapted some of the easy interview questions for software engineers in Spolsky's style, in order to be able to quickly find our who the best engineers are.

About hiring great Salespeople, the first part of The Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge has an awesome methodology for it, only based on a quantitative approach.

The focus remains the same as in early-stage (Product and Market), but with a slight difference: finding great people to build the next products and finding great people to execute the sales strategy.