Waiting for Superman

waiting for superman

Last week, I received an email from a reader about an issue he is having in his business.  He said “[our problem] revolves around waiting for superman.”

Waiting for Superman is the name of a documentary film about the state of the education system in the United States, but I doubted that was what he meant.  So, I asked for clarification.

His response:

Superman means funding:

  • Once we get another developer we’ll be able to solve all of our technical issues.
  • Once we get funding we can fully scale.
  • Once we fully scale we will be taken seriously on platforms such as Techcrunch.

I want to be able to resolve these issues, but cannot as I have to wait for Superman to come and magically make the business correct itself.

My advice:

Too often, founders create a mythical silver bullet (Superman) that will make everything right, but 99.9% of the time the benefit is overrated.  Real progress is made in boring daily increments of .1%.   Yes, I know, the daily grind sucks, but that’s what being an entrepreneur requires.  And taken in aggregate, small improvements are a very big deal.

But let’s say Superman does magically arrive to “save the day.”  In the case described above, the result is going to be an inappropriate focus on scaling, and scaling MUCH too soon.

Scaling should occur only after two critical milestones have been met:

  1. Product/Market Fit:  In a small, but representative sub-segment of your business, does your product (or service) solve a real problem and are customers willing to pay money for it?
  2. Repeatable Customer Acquisition Model:  After getting step one right, can you find a set of repeatable steps for acquiring customers that allows you to build a profitable business?  i.e. you can’t be in the business of spending a $100 to acquire a customer with a lifetime value of $50.

And one last thought.  Getting noticed by Techcrunch is nice validation but the likelihood of it changing the trajectory of your business is zero, unless Techcrunch readers are your core customers.  On the other hand, if you get a 5 star review in an ultra-niche publication focused exclusively on your target market, now that’s a HUGE win!

A great read on this topic is a book written by Peter Sims called Little Bets:  How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries