What are you in love with? – Mark MacLeod

June 15, 2020 - Mark MacLeod

What are you in love with?

Entrepreneurs start companies for many reasons. For some, they see $ signs from a massive opportunity. For others, they just feel they know what the market wants (that is so much better than current alternatives). For others still, they are so drawn to a problem they dedicate themselves to do it.

Given the craziness and intense effort that goes into creating a high value company from nothing, it is my belief that there is only one truly sustainable motive that will enable founders to keep going and achieve what is possible for them and their companies.

In love with the opportunity

Many founders look at the size and/ or value of the market and jump in. The US gold rush in the mid 1800s is an example of this. Enterprising men, picked up and made their way to California hoping to strike gold.

They were not passionate miners. They didn’t go for the lifestyle (after all, it was back-breaking, isolated work in a cut throat environment surrounded by rivals). They went for the money. Plain and simple.

Money is not a sustained motivator. Even for those lucky few who get it. It provides temporary satisfaction, then you are left wanting. In the US gold rush (as in many similar rushes driven by money) it was not the miners who struck gold, but the people selling supplies to the miners.

Don’t do something just because you could potentially make a lot of money!

In love with your solution

Back in my VC days, I met many founders who were absolutely in love with the solution they developed for their market. While it is right to focus on product and while it is possible that their solution was better than legacy alternatives, I found their mindset to be too rigid. Only this product with this feature set could work. This was exactly what the market needed! We just need to get this to market.

Technology markets are competitive and dynamic. Needs change. New competitors show up. Some with fundamentally new approaches. If you are convinced your current product is the winner, your mind will be closed to customer feedback, new advances in technology, competitor moves and other inputs, all telling you that your current product may not be the best solution for the market ultimately.

Don’t fall in love with your particular product or solution.

In love with the problem

When I talk with successful founders, those whose companies have or are in the middle of winning their markets, two things stand out: First, that success took a LONG time to achieve; and two, the motivation that kept those founders going was their love for the problem.

They were not driven by money. In fact, the most successful founders seem to spend the least amount of time thinking about money. Their products or solutions have changed many times over the years. More often than not, this change was internally driven because they were constantly coming up with ways to improve. Constantly learning more about the problem and how best to tackle it. As a result, constantly disrupting themselves.

When you feel compelled to tackle a problem, you give yourself and your company purpose. You tap into intrinsic (internal motivation) vs. extrinsic (external) motivation (like money).

It is only the sustained drive that comes from intrinsic motivation that will enable you to keep going. To hit obstacles and challenges, pivot and persevere.

Questions to consider:

Why did I start this company? What was that initial spark of motivation? Was it money? A product idea? A problem?

What drives me/ our company today? Is it the same thing that motivates us and when we started?

Does my source of motivation give me continued energy to go after this and build a great company?

Does my source of motivation keep my mind open to new possibilities or closed towards making my vision of the market a reality?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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