Entrepreneur magazine recently interviewed Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn and early exec at PayPal. One of his lines in this interview rang true for me as we hammer through the issues of launching multiple startups under the same roof at The Combine.

 To Successfully Grow A Business, You Must ‘Expect Chaos’

– Reid Hoffman


The Chaos is Good!

Sometimes I catch myself getting stressed out about the chaos of the startup. Then Hoffman’s words remind me that it’s ok. Chaos is all part of the process of building something new in a new market with new people. I’m not talking about post-SuperBowl riot chaos. I’m talking about chaos that, while it seems everything is in total confusion, is really moving the ball forward in a general direction. That direction, over time, gets more and more specific as the startup inches toward becoming a repeatable business.

Causes of Chaos

Here are just three easy to recognize reasons that startups experience – but should expect and embrace – chaos.

  • Communications processes & channels not established – As an organization, you don’t know what works yet. From how to get a P.O. from your ideal customer type to what the best marketing medium, social channel, and calls to action are to best engage your target audience. It’s ok. Try what you think might work, then invest in what actually works, according to the data.
  • Roles constantly overlapping / everybody wearing multiple hats – At The Combine, we call this whack-a-mole: you do what needs doing right then and there to move things forward. There’s no such thing as “that’s not my job.” If you can get it done, you get it done. If this approach bothers your ego, you may not fit in a startup.
  • Everybody GSD, where “D” is “done”, not perfect – Reid Hoffman also said, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” We are literally living this one right now in one of our portfolio companies. What a great reminder that ‘done’ is ever so much better than ‘perfect’. Especially when we’re talking about software, it’s never going to be done, let alone perfect. Get done what you need to get done for this sprint or this customer or this day.

A Marathon of Sprints

That’s two heavy reminders from a billionaire tech startup veteran, whose product (LinkedIn) we all use. Might want to check out his upcoming podcast as well, and remember that startups are a marathon made up of hundreds or even thousands of sprints. Embrace the chaos, because it’s coming whether you like it or not.

What do you think about that?

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