I’m going to write about an often un-discussed condition in the start-up world called “Founder’s Block.” The idea is that the entrepreneur or start-up junkie reaches a point where they can’t get enthusiastic enough about their next idea to leave their current job or dedicate their full efforts. Having spent the better part of the last few months looking at hundreds of business plans and looking at opportunities for myself, I’m acutely aware of the condition. It often feels as though it’s impossible to fall in love with another venture. If you’ve had a “win,” you may feel enormous pressure to repeat or build an even bigger success. If your last venture didn’t generate a return, you may feel like you’re in a win or go home situation. All of these can contribute to Founder’s Block syndrome.
If you’re pressured, you’re likely to make a bad decision
Making quick decisions generally leads to bad decisions. A good friend and successful entrepreneur told me that it took him 2 years to find his next venture (which will be another hit I’m certain). While part of the start-up decision hinges on instinct and conviction, emotional factors like insecurity or financial pressure can often force one’s hand. This is hard because we rarely have the luxury of taking our sweet time. However, my experience is that the less pressure one feels in the germination process, the more likely the venture will start off on a good foot. Much like sports, the more relaxed you are, the better you play (no reference to Tiger Woods intended).
Don’t be afraid to kill ideas – Sunk costs are just that
My colleague David Frankel at Founder Collective talks about "going up the hill, down the hill and back up again." His premise is that the process of evaluating opportunities is a bit of a roller coaster, whether as investor or entrepreneur. You might get excited about an opportunity immediately upon hearing the pitch or coming up with the idea in the shower. Over time, though, through diligence, the excitement wanes as competitors and other failed attempts come into view. All entrepreneurs have some level of doubt throughout, but the challenge is to develop a clear, validated perspective on how you might be able to overcome those doubts. If you cannot seem to overcome the challenges, don’t be afraid to kill it no matter how much time/money has been invested. If you can get back up the hill, that’s generally a good sign.
Sounding boards – experts, entrepreneurs, VCs and uncle Larry
I think the best way to vet your idea is to share it, almost constantly. Find experts who have deep knowledge in the area. Take notes on everything they say – you’ll re-read it 100 times. Over the years, I’ve kept a small group of trusted entrepreneurs to serve as objective sounding boards for whatever crazy notion I’ve got. As an aside, I actually think we need more entrepreneur-organized sessions where entrepreneurs can freely brainstorm without feeling scrutiny or risk. VCs can also be valuable, but I’d be wary to go to a VC too many times with a half-baked idea. Instead, VCs can be great sources of contacts (for the experts mentioned above) once you’ve zeroed in on a particular market space. Of course, don’t forget your uncle Larry. The lowest risk way to gut check your idea is friends and family – if they laugh at you, who cares, they’re family?!