No Good Picking up speed if you're on the wrong road.

December 16, 2014

We have seen many a start-up recognize what they believe to be a need in the market place, think it through rigorously with their team, build the solution to the problem they defined only to get their hat handed to them by their desired marketplace. It is arrogant to base all go to market assumptions on one point of view.   We say one point of view because we all know your staff will jump off a cliff if you tell them to. Especially if you tell them how it will help the start up succeed. So when you tell them the market will like it, they will likely believe you. If they do question the assumptions you will bully them into submission, often in the name of "speed to market". You'll say things like "when we get some money we can look deeper into that" or something similar, just to get them back on board, developing the solution to the problem that exists in your head.  A solution that often has you heading down the wrong road.

"No good picking up speed if you're on the wrong road"

In order to get to market quickly many start-ups rush this early, foundational step. The Lean Start Up Movement refers to it as "Get out of the office". In the early stages nothing of value happens in the office.

Justin Hein CTO and Co-Founder of, a successful start-up that is quickly gaining traction, learned the hard way. During one of his early start-ups he persistently went aggressively at the market with 3 "re-launches" of a product designed to help students track and manage their expenses. He was in a desperate search for product to market fit, doing everything he could think of to pivot and adjust the product in order to re-enter the market. They were bold in their asks of industry leaders, at one point maintaining several weeks of being in the top 10 downloads from the app store (IOS) and participating in Techcrunch's Disruption contest.

" My ego kept driving the enterprise" stated Hein, " When my mentors and advisors pointed out that we hadn’t really checked in with the market to see what they want and how they might want it served up, I pretended to listen and paid appropriate lip service, but deep down I knew that I knew what they wanted. It was like I couldn’t afford to let even a little doubt creep in - until the whole damn thing came tumbling down around me." This is what we refer to as ' Delusional Persistence vs Informed Persistence'

Albert Einstein said it a different way. "If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions."

"You need industry experience. Period. If you do not have it as a Founder, find a co-Founder who has it” continues Hein.  “I learned the hard way. With our venture my co-Founder Justin Bailey has 8 years of front line working in the shipping business. He sold products and services to our target audience and listened to their complaints about the way it is and what they would like to see. In fact that "insider knowledge" is what our business assumptions are based on - not my single, rather arrogant point of view as in past ventures."

Following the Lean Start Up model, the 2 Justins built a simple solution that addressed the MAIN PAIN POINTS of their target audience, knowing full well that it required more features and perhaps even an improved workflow, but they executed enough to get some initial customers - paying customers - customers who found enough value in the initial offering to pay something, if not full 'market value' for the solution.

These charter clients will always be made to feel special, mainly because they are special. And it begins. They provide feedback for constant improvement of the service/product. In return for better pricing and long-term 'elite' status with your Company, they help the development team get the features right.

The Lean Start up Movement has disciplined processes in place to help you through many of those specific steps.

Take the time to be sure you're on the right road. When you look back, you'll be glad you did.

Derek A. Lackey

A serial entrepreneur with many failures and successes, Derek has spent 20 years in traditional advertising, along with the past 8 in digital marketing. His ability to fuse the two with fluidity and... »


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Effective Go to Market Strategies For Start Ups

9 out 10 start ups do not survive. One of the primary reasons is: their target audience does not know what the offer is and why they need it in their lives.

All too often a start up has a great idea, well executed. Then the challenge of clearly describing the offering in a way that connects and moves your audience to action. In this book Derek A. Lackey and Robert H.Lane address the key issues and help you think your way through this challenging stage. Many start ups find themselves having to do this several times due to pivots driven by the market feedback. This is a muscle every start up needs to build in order to be successful in this busy marketplace.