“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” – Yogi Berra fork in roadThere is no shortage of startup advice on blogs. Blogs have been great contributors to our on-going education. [That’s why I’m trying to diligently curate a “Blogiography” of best posts on this site in the Library section of this website.] But blogs can also relay inaccurate or bad advice, because almost no one is judging what others are writing, except in the comments when they exist. That’s why you need to keep in mind that a blog post often offers incomplete thoughts, an opinion, or just one idea. Only you will know if the advice is worth taking or chucking. I’m personally in favor of general advice using mental frameworks and guidelines that help you think through a particular issue, instead of being prescriptive with specifics. That’s because every situation is different, and while an idea might be correct on its own, it may not be right for your context, based on timing or other factors. I’m going to pick on 3 recent examples that have misleading information, just to illustrate the point.

1. Focus on Team or Product?

In The most important managerial skill, the author says to pick your battles, and ends with: “When your company is in its first year, your most important task is to build a team, and — more importantly — to figure out who is good at what. Having an outstanding product is typically of less importance than the team itself.” I find it hard to believe that the product is less important than the team, and that it takes a year to figure out the team before you can have a great product. Both team and product are equally important, and yes,- a great team can develop a great product, but that doesn’t mean you have a year to perfect the team before getting a good product out the door.

2. Test Business Model Before Technical Aspect?

In Why You Need To Test Business Model First Before Testing Technical Aspects Of Startups”, the author says: “Many entrepreneurs work hard on the proof of concept (technical), but skip any proof of the business model (revenue flow). In other words, once they are convinced that the product works, they assume their price, sales channel, and marketing will bring in the customers. These days, the technical side may be the easy part.” Yes, you need to test the business model if you know what it will be, but what if the product needs to be fully deployed with lots of users prior to being able to figure out the business model? You’d be prematurely testing a model that isn’t relevant or not there. And even if you have a B2B product that can be purchased immediately, not having the technical capabilities to iterate will kill you because the reality is that you’ll need to iterate your product in lock-step with your business model.

3. Is Lean Startup a Method?

In Lean Startups: from principles to a real method, the author says that Lean Startup needs to be more of a method like SCRUM, “A way to create a real method from Lean Startup would be to adapt the scrum framework from the product development level to the business or customer development level.” But, Lean Startup is explained in great details in 3 books by Steve Blank, Eric Ries and Ash Maurya, in addition to the essential companion Lean Analytics by Ben Yoskovitz and Allistair Croll. Enough said. Lean doesn’t need to carry itself through the evolution of a startup, or Lean Startup will become a crutch. In business, there is always ambiguity, and often there is no right or wrong answer. There are options. Choosing the right one is the tricky part. Most blogs are incomplete thoughts on a particular issue that the author knows something about, or maybe has a beef to grind. Don’t confuse opinions with actionable advice, and if it’s just an idea, you need to know where to slot that idea, and whether to slot it at all.]]>