ICYMI - Slack bought the IP from competitors Hipchat and Stride at the end of July 2018, successfully eating their nearest competition. The story in brief:
Hipchat was launched in beta form back in 2009, long before Slack’s debut in 2013. It mostly ruled its space in the time in between, leading Atlassian to acquire it in March of 2012. Slack quickly outgrew it in popularity though, for myriad reasons — be it a bigger suite of third-party integrations, a better reputation for uptime, or… well, better marketing. By September of 2017, Atlassian overhauled its chat platform and rebranded it as “Stride”, but it was never able to quite catch up with Slack’s momentum.
What the heck are people talking about when they talk about momentum?
There is the literal, physics based definition. I like the Cambridge dictionary one:
Momentum: the force or speed of an object in motion, or the increase in the rate of development of a process:
A falling object gains momentum as it falls.
Technology seems to create its own momentum – if something can be done, it will be.
Colloquially, when an investor wants to see momentum or suits in a bar are bandying the word about, they mean the business use. Momentum in this case is usually seen as an unstoppable series of successes.
How does this momentum happen?
In physics, Mass x Velocity gains increasing forward motion that will take a lot of energy to stop.
“Momentum itself is rarely the byproduct of any one big thing. It’s the byproduct of little things done consistently over time, which carry you into momentum windows (which are often big things).”
~ Srinivas Rao
Here are some steps to develop momentum in your startup. This is assuming that you already have a vision and plan, so you know where you want to go.
Bias toward action - focus on what can be done now to get a win.
“It’s not that everything needs to be done NOW, but for items on your critical path, it’s always useful to challenge the due date. All it takes is asking the simplest question: “Why can't this be done sooner?” Asking it methodically, reliably and habitually can have a profound impact on the speed of your organization.”
~ Dave Girouard
String of successes - Take a slice of the bigger goal to move you in the direction you want to go, then string those successes together.
Tonight you’re not trying to take over the world, you’re trying to take over the neighborhood, then the city, then the region, you get the picture. Put together obtainable goals that move you in the right direction.
Good enough - Founders love to quote Patton* here:
“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.”
Get lean. Good enough (using good judgement) will work to keep things moving.
Results matter - Activity is great if you are up for your yearly review in a large corporation, but it will kill your startup to fixate on activity rather than results. Nobody gives a shit about the number of things you did today, they want to know what came of it. Go for the win, not a bunch of Asana tasks.
Sense of urgency- your startup will need every bit of momentum it can muster, so start now and start small. Do what you can to accomplish something and get a win every single day.
“Reid Hoffman compares building a startup to jumping off a cliff without a parachute while building a plane. If you get complacent, you’ll hit the ground hard. Every startup is trying to prove a business model. Every day, you should be working hard to achieve that proof.”
~ James Yu
Or as I like to say, stop dicking around worrying about theoreticals. This tends to be caused by fear that the idea you love actually sucks and nobody wants it. Go test your idea now because the faster you verify, the faster you can try something different if the idea fails... because you can generate momentum.
Commitment - You and your founding team are focused on your company full time and doing the work. This is no longer a side-hustle, hobby or project, this is what you are doing and you are investing your time and energy into it.
"When we convene day upon day in the same space at the same time, a powerful energy builds up around us. — Steven Pressfield"
~ Srinivas Rao
- People - Bring in help for your company. Identify your weak areas, those key skills you must have to accomplish your goals, and get the people that have them. Make sure they are committed, passionate about the project, will push you along and can attract other people like them the company.
“building a strong team is THE single most important thing you can do to transform your idea into a company, and to make your company a success!”
~ Ashley Wilson
“From an investment perspective, the ability to recruit talent is a key sign of promising founders.”
~ Hunter Walk
- Traction - Get users that are ready to or are converting to customers. Listen to them consistently and deliver. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to make them rabid, referring, paying fans.
“Make a practice of talking/selling/demoing to a new customer at least once a week. Don’t skip weeks.”
~ Mat Vogels
Momentum is tough to gain but the beauty of it is that once it gets going, you just need to keeping it going. These steps are simple but they aren’t easy.
Don’t get discouraged, get diligent, keep up the pace and become unstoppable.
Have an anecdote or personal example of momentum in your startup? Reach out or send me a link!
* General George S. Patton was a leader during WWII and earlier. His earthy oratorical style is appealing but his history is troubling.