[Also published on Startup Weekend Delhi]
Founders start companies for many reasons. They want to build something useful. They have identified a specific pain point in their personal or professional lives and the status quo causes them pain. They have analytically spotted a specific business opportunity. They are inventing something that is a leap forward in their industry or disruptive in general. Or perhaps, they see everybody else doing the same thing and want to jump on the bandwagon!
No matter how small or big the initial idea is at startup, the best founders step back and ask themselves what the high-impact success scenario is for them and what the purpose and vision of their project is.
Yet, why is it that, time after time, many founders fail to communicate this high-impact scenario and sense of purpose and vision? Time after time, the first words uttered by founders to the press or investors or recruits is what they did in the past month or the recent milestones that they have hit or the numerical goal they have in mind. I believe these things are necessary, but not sufficient, to drive a company to high-impact greatness.
Having been a founder myself, I know that the day-in and day-out focus on getting things actually done (considerably higher friction in India than in many other countries) is all-consuming (and appropriate). Yet I think it falls on the founders and management team to have a deep sense of purpose and vision and communicate that to the whole company, through words and through translation into what-does-it-mean-for-me for their team. And I believe this translates into better decision-making and execution through your startup.
My goal with this post is not to drive you to spend a bunch of time creating vague marketing-speak vision statements like “Invent” or “The best technology services provider in the world” or “The largest ___ in the country.” My goal is to drive you to think through your high-impact scenario and actively drive toward it with a vengeance.
So, consider the questions below early during the life of your startup and perhaps weave the answers into your execution as well as the (hopefully reality-based!) story you communicate to your stakeholders, whether they be the press or investors or recruits or regulators or others:
- What is the purpose of my startup and how does this connect to the impact I want to have?
- If my startup achieves its purpose and vision, how will my industry or people’s lives have been meaningfully impacted?
- How do I work backwards from this purpose and vision to instantiate a specific execution plan?
- Why is my team the best team to deliver on this vision? If not the best team, how do I build this purpose-focused team?
Here are some purpose/vision statements that resonated with me. And lest you think that these are just purposes dreamed up after the companies had succeeded, please think otherwise. These companies had this in mind from day one.
“Our mission is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful… Our solutions are designed to enable professionals to achieve higher levels of performance and professional success and enable enterprises and professional organizations to find and connect with the world’s best talent.” ~ LinkedIn Annual Report
- Indian Energy Exchange (a Lightspeed portfolio company):
“We envision an India where the quality of life of the common citizen, rural or urban, is not compromised as a result of power shortages. We indeed envision a power-surplus India and a concomitant healthy competition in the electricity market for the ultimate benefit of the consumer, domestic and industrial… We will help accomplish the above vision by providing the nation with – and enhancing the utility of – our robust, scalable, and customizable electronic trading system with integrated solutions for trading, clearing, risk management, surveillance and counter-party trade guarantee.” ~ IEX website
“Several years ago, PayPal pioneered a new method of person-to-person transactions. Square takes this to a new level of personal accountability by enabling card present transactions with known payers. This is the next step in the cashless society.” ~ Jack Dorsey speaking