At a startup, “managing only what you can measure” will get you absolutely nowhere. In a business, there are two types of growth: sustainable and unsustainable. The early stages of a startup almost always require a hefty amount of unsustainable growth to springboard the product into mass-market.
In AirBnB’s case, this meant ditching Y Combinator’s office in Mountain View, California and flying across the country to meet with their earliest adopters. Inevitably, it was these initial users that put the company on track to become the revolutionary travel service everyone knows and loves today.
The point is, it was the passion of the founders at Airbnb that eventually drove them to get the feedback they undoubtedly needed to take their product to the next level. Despite their horrendous growth numbers and even more horrendous business plan, Y Combinator’s Paul Graham saw that they had incredible grit and a strong passion for their product.
Strong Statistics Don’t Automatically Translate to a Strong Company
A startup’s sustainability (and life for that matter) depends on available capital, customer growth, and of course, revenue. However, it’s important to remember that these metrics only measure the success of a business in relation to its market. Numbers can’t speak for the future development of the company at all. There’s simply no external statistic that measures a startup’s true ability to disrupt an industry.
When investors are trying to find the next big unicorn, they tend to focus their look internally. And at the core of all startups are founders. As a founder, it’s essentially your job to be passionate about your product. You need to passionate enough to convince employees, investors, and customers that your idea is incredible, all for different reasons.
Predicting what the futures of a startup will be like requires investors to look closely at the team behind the idea itself. Having a strong customer acquisition rate doesn’t mean anything if your team dreads the thought of implementing extra customer feedback. Getting your team excited about what they’re working on starts with your passion as a founder.
It may not be impossible to achieve strong revenue growth building and selling a product you don’t care about, but no businesses can reach their fullest potential without founders that can motivate an entire team to work.
If your startup is still in its earliest stages and you don’t yet have any metrics to measure, showing investors you have an unrelenting passion for your idea is absolutely everything.
Passion Helps Startups Weather the (Inevitable) Storms
A startup’s ability to weather storms is a perfect example of another metric that just can’t be measured through the collection and analysis of data. A founder’s “grit,” otherwise known as their ability to problem-solve and grind their way through tough times, is an extremely important quality investors look for in early stage startups.
When the going gets bad, and it pretty much always does at one time or another, it helps to be passionate about your product. Startups don’t have the luxury of being able to slow down when the going gets tough.
As a founder, you can only pivot your idea so many times before the entire vision of your company is lost. Pivoting should only be used when you need to change slight details to preserve the core of your idea, not to indefinitely shuffle your idea around until you find something you’re passionate about.
Being passionate about your product makes it easy to stay on track when the going gets tough.
Passion Breeds Creativity and Internal Innovation
Everyone has felt it before. When you dream up something exciting or find something new you’re interested in, the well of ideas never seems to dry up. At a startup, the same thing can happen, just on a much larger scale.
If you’re passionate about the product you’re working on, it’s impossible to get it out of your head. While this might be a bad thing for your work-life balance, forgetting that you’re actually working when thinking about your product is great for creativity and overall innovation.
The best ideas for startups don’t come from sitting down and brainstorming business ideas. If your startup is built around something you’re passionate about, it likely will have something to do with another pre-existing aspect of your life. When you start to blur the lines between your personal and business lives, your true creativity is released and intuitive product innovation comes naturally.
Passion Drives Idea Validation and Iteration
Customer feedback is a valuable asset for any business, but for startups, it’s impossible to function without. Passionate founders stop at nothing to continue optimizing their product for their customers throughout all stages of growth. While this means different things depending on what you need the feedback for, there’s always one constant: the desire to constantly improve your product.
It doesn’t matter how your startup was funded. If you expect to stay alive, regularly iterating on your ideas is vital to making sure you’re building something your customers actually want. It’s simply impossible to give your idea the attention it needs to thrive if you aren’t passionate about it.
Coming up with an incredible idea might only take as little as one second, but creating a good product requires you to actively pursue feedback and have a constant interest in improving your idea.
In order for a startup to work, it has to be your passion. In an office setting with a massive team of supporting workers, hating your job isn’t the end of the world. If you fall behind, everyone around you will largely cover up for your missteps without even being consciously aware. Sadly, the situation is different for startup founders. When you’re likely one of the only people working on your idea, losing your drive and falling behind spells a fiery death.
Measurable metrics will always be impossible for investors to ignore, but never undervalue the importance of being passionate about what you’re doing.