During a conference in 2006, Marc Simoncini, Meetic founder and CEO, was asked what it takes to build a successful start-up. As usual, he answered with a funny but insightful explanation : to succeed requires such an important amount of known ingredients that having all of them simultaneously is nothing else but chance.
Simoncini is definitively right. We all know the key ingredients to build a successful start-up : a good positionning, a killer product, a dream team, a strong investment, etc. For all these components you’ll easily find a lot of literature to master them.
What I have found interesting in the past few years working at Owlient, is not only you have to work hard to get these components, but you may well get them in the wrong order !
The common thinking would be to get an investment first, hire a team of expert, ask them to study the market and shape a clever positionning and business model, then hiring a team to develop the product, build a sales force, etc. It may happen this way sometimes, probably when investors want to finance a copy of a recent innovation.
But it is clearly not the way it happens for most of start-ups : it often starts with a product. But a product is not a company. Considering its consequences on the strategy, the competion field and thus the investment needed, the positionning is as critical as the product itself. And obviously, nothing can happen without a good team.
When you see a successful company like Meetic, it is « easy » to analyse the key factors of success, but gathering them all is difficult, and you don’t get them the way you would imagine theoratically. Not to talk about other key components like company’s values (that may differ from the product ones) or corporate culture that have a significative impact on your employees.
So as a founder of start-up, you’re always running after a missing component in your company, keeping in mind what you would like your company look like in several year. Working on day-to-day operations while looking at long-term future. I guess that’s what makes building a start-up so exciting. Sometimes building a start-up is like trying to take off with an airplane while assembling the aisles, you’ve no choice but to do it !
Have you been founder or involved in the early days of a start-up, do you have any feedback on this difficulty ?