Three Things Even MBAs Get Wrong When Starting A Business (and Two They Get Right… Sometimes)

  1. We had a good partnership. Starting a business is like starting a family. First you choose who you marry, then you have some children who may or may not like you and finally you die and the children squabble over what’s left of your life’s work. Choosing a business partner is at once rewarding and stressful. They will be around a lot. They will have an equal say in all the important decisions. You will disappoint them and they will disappoint you. Ideally, you will eventually hire employees and then the employees inherit your efforts and build on what you started. At times, I complained to my actual family, but I never once regretted starting a business with Aman and Alberto. We got along and we stayed respectful, professional, and friendly. A startup is still a job and I can’t imagine starting a job with a toxic partner, peer, or boss. We got the getting along and having a good relationship part of the business absolutely right. When starting anything make sure you get along with your partners, be it a family or a business.
  2. We had a workable idea. Starting a business is also like writing. You pick a topic, spend countless hours toiling away, first practicing just being in front of a keyboard getting the letters down, then working on the edits. Finally you post it and it gets a single solitary like from some random person by mistake. You need to believe in the idea even when no one else does and when no one else will. In business, as in writing, the quantity of the efforts may not lead to a qualitative piece at the end. The topic was not at fault; it was the execution. For us, the fitness app market was already becoming saturated and the competition had time and money advantages that we did not have. Those challenges could have been overcome, if it were not for the other things we got wrong. The quality of our idea didn’t really matter in the early stages, and there was enough there to produce quantity from it. Fitness apps have emerged since those early days indicating that there remains opportunity in the space. We had something.
  1. The Credibility Problem. We had no credibility in the fitness space. Two of us worked as tech consultants and the other as a banker. We had zero credibility in the fitness industry. We needed to establish credibility in the business we wanted to enter so clients would take us seriously. We tried a few things like connecting with kinesiology professors and recruiting the gym the data came from. At the end of the journey we still had a credibility problem in the fitness industry and nothing to show for any enhanced expertise in the space.
  2. The Technology Problem. We lacked direct knowledge of the IoT space. We spent time learning how sensors worked, what sensors to use, and talked ad nauseum with people. They told us we were going the wrong way and in for a lot of challenges with the approaches we were taking. We lost time becoming competent in technical spaces we lacked expertise in.
  3. The Build Problem. We were not developers. More than not having an IoT background, not having the technical background in mobile development set us back. We were again starting at the very beginning while others had tools, knowledge, and a list of previous work to inform them on how to solve mobile app challenges.
  1. Can I work with them?
  2. Can I disagree with them?
  3. Can I be wrong or disappointing with them?
  4. How do they handle being wrong or being disappointed?
  5. Do I need them or do they need me?
  6. Am I going to regret this?
  7. Are they going to regret this?
  8. Will our relationship survive a business?
  1. Do the backgrounds and skills complement each other or is there a lot of overlap?
  2. Do we have to learn a lot of things we don’t know?
  3. Can our existing knowledge be targeted at the industry?
  4. Do we have industry knowledge?

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