April 27

Three Frequently Overlooked Variables That Determine Your Success as an Entrepreneur

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Budding entrepreneurs, artists, and creatives spend a lot of time trying to find the right product for the market: an app that people will use, or a book that people will want to read. But they don’t spend nearly as much time thinking about whether THEY are the right person to build the app they want to build or write the book they want to write. That’s what Suneel Gupta, author of the book Backable calls “product founder fit.”

When aspiring authors write book proposals, they have to answer three questions.

  1. Why you?
  2. Why now?
  3. Why this book?

If you write a book that has high market demand, but it’s not the book you want to write, it’s possible you’ll write a decent book. But it’s unlikely because you lack conviction about what you want to write.

Just because there’s a market for something doesn’t necessarily mean you should build it to meet the needs of that market. If you don’t give a damn about the problem you’re solving, it’s not very likely you’ll be successful.

There are three variables to consider to determine product founder fit: Context, Probability, and Possibility. But cognitive biases distort our perception and cause us to ignore the probability of success and focus only on the possibility.

Confirmation Bias is one of the most common cognitive biases that causes people to overlook Product Founder Fit. For example, a successful podcaster might say, “Everyone should start a podcast.” But filter that advice through the variables of context and probability, and you get a much more accurate sense of the likelihood that your podcast will be successful.

First, you need to consider the context

This can include things like timing, your level of experience, and your aptitude for certain skills.

For example, we started Unmistakable Creative 10 years ago. So we had a 10-year head start on something that became a massive cultural trend. Unless you’ve invented the flexible capacitor, that’s a variable you can’t replicate. Another example of context is experience.

You can’t compare yourself to someone who has worked as a producer at NPR for 10 years and expect to get the same results when you’ve never recorded a single podcast. This why outliers are usually bad role models for most of us.

You might notice a trend of entrepreneurs in some fields raising a lot of money and think you should also do the same. But if you have no skills, experience, or aptitude for it, you end up overlooking context and set yourself up for failure.

Second, you have to consider the probability of your success

Unlike 10 years ago, there are millions of podcasts on iTunes today. I’m an Indian who is bad at math. But even with my questionable math skills, I know that if I started Unmistakable Creative Today, the probability of my success would be much lower.

While there are exceptions, if you start a business in a field where dozens of competitors already have a head start, it’s not likely you’ll be very successful. As Peter Thiel Says in his book Zero to One, companies must strive for 10x better because merely incremental improvements often end up meaning no improvement at all for the end-user.

If you can’t make something that is 10x better than your competitors, make something else.

Third, context and probability, determine the possibility of your success

For example, is it possible that I make it to the NBA and go head-to-head with Lebron? Yes. But given that I’m a scrawny Indian with limited athletic ability (context) and there are millions of people who would obliterate me in a basketball game (probability), it’s pretty much a guarantee that I won’t make it to the NBA.

So why is product founder fit as important as product founder fit? It determines the length of what Suneel Gupta calls your emotional runway, i.e. your ability to deal with the inevitable challenges, setbacks, and obstacles of any creative or entrepreneurial endeavor.

The only way your energy stays high is if it’s replenished by your own passion for the idea. Intellectual “interest is important, but it’s rarely enough-you need to be emotionally invested. – Suneel Gupta, Backable: The Surprising Truth Behind Why People Take a Chance on You

  • If you’re an aspiring writer, your emotional runway will determine your ability to keep writing when no one is reading.
  • If you’re a founder, your emotional runway will determine your ability to keep going when every conceivable metric says you should give up.

But don’t build a product, write a book, or solve a problem you don’t care about just because there’s a market for it. If you lack conviction, you not only decrease the likelihood that you’ll be successful, you increase the likelihood that you won’t be.

Whether you want to write your first book, build an audience for your work, or start your first company, you have to take these three variables into account.


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