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Top 10 mistakes early founders make

What are the top mistakes early founders make while they are trying to reach Product/market fit and how do you avoid them? In this presentation from Early Stage 2022, Omar Valle, Startup Business Development, Amazon Web Services, distills the lessons he has learned while working with over a thousand early stage startups from top accelerators like Y Combinator, Techstars, and StartX.

One mistake Valle returns to again and again is founders not knowing their potential customers and what they value most:

A lot of developers will hear about a problem and they say, “Oh, I can solve that with some code, no problem,” and they go running off and start developing a product to solve a problem. And the challenge is that they don’t know about that problem. When you are not that customer and you don’t know the problem intimately, a great way to start is [asking] “What is that problem? What does it mean to that customer?” 

It could be a pain point, but it could also be something that’s really a delight, something that is gonna wow them. But can you quantify it? Because if you can solve something, but if it’s not that important, nobody’s gonna pay for it.

Omar Valle | Startup Business Development — Amazon Web Services

Another big mistake made by founders, Valle says, is not seeking or accepting help on their products, and instead trying to go it alone.

A lot of times people focus on the wrong metrics. Metrics will depend on where you are in the stage of your startup. Churn rate, customer acquisition cost, MMR — the problem with these is that it’s not telling you what the customer actually values, or what part of your product or service they actually value. 

I think all entrepreneurs, we spend a lot of time trying to prove our ideas are good. It’s like confirmation bias. So what types of questions would you use to get real feedback? The harder the questions you ask, the better the advice you’re gonna get. You want the negativity, you want the negative things. You need the obstacles, you need to take the negative obstacles and turn it into something positive.

A lot of founders put a lot on themselves. They think, “This was my idea, I know what’s best for this.” And as they bring on other people, a lot of you know, they aren’t humble or vulnerable. When you’re a startup and you haven’t figured things out, the best thing you could say is “I don’t know all the answers, I need your help to be successful here. We need to figure this out together. Don’t just look at me, I’m not gonna be able to figure this out by myself.”  You might be the final decision maker, but you want everybody to say, “look, we are together.”

Omar Valle | Startup Business Development — Amazon Web Services

Listen to this session and others from Early Stage here.