I gave a presentation at a coworking space in NYC today. At the end of the presentation, one of the members came up to me and asked:
“What’s the #1 piece of advice you’d give to someone who’s working on a new startup?”
Now first, I was flattered he felt I was qualified to answer the question. I’ve been at it with Contactually for 4+ years, but I’m no expert. This is my first rodeo after all.
Then it hit me. Something had been bothering me ever since I stepped foot into the building that morning, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. His question brought it to a head.
The #1 thing I’ve seen that separates the wheat from the chaff in the startup community is the ability to execute.
Execution. Getting shit done. Hustling. Being scrappy.
I think the startup world is separated into two big camps: Talkers and Doers.
Talkers love the IDEA of building a startup. They’re a constant presence at every startup meetup, hold a lot of coffee chats, talk about how they’re just “crushing it, bro”, and are always sure to get business cards printed ASAP.
But building a company is a lot of hard, sometimes tedious, often unglamorous work. And it takes a lot of pure execution. And that’s where the Talkers fail, and the Doers shine.
Even if everything else is against you — no money, no experience, no customers —if you keep executing and iterating, you’re probably going to make some headway. And if you keep executing and iterating, you just might figure it out. The startups that are still alive 1, 3, 10 years later are the ones that constantly execute. They’re the Doers.
That said, execution is no guarantee. It doesn’t solve all problems. But without execution, I can’t imagine any startup succeeding.
Back to today’s coworking space. What bothered me the entire morning is that I saw a lot of typical Talker behavior. Lots of people milling around. Random vendors hanging out, asking members if they wanted to chat over coffee. Constant distractions robbing startups of the most precious resource they have: time.
Startups are hard. They require execution. That execution will sometimes produce great results, but it often won’t — and will thus require constant iteration. Which ultimately requires lots and lots of time.
I’ve loved watching the rise of coworking spaces, and we’ve been members of several. I think they’re a wonderful resource. But all too often, these spaces often attract lots of Talkers and distract the Doers. That’s a problem.
My advice to the person I spoke with today, and to anyone starting a new company, is to constantly protect your time and keep execution as your North Star. Surround yourself with resources and spaces and people that drive and excite you, but ensure they never detract from your #1 focus: execution.