Repost from APX Blog: Reality Distortion Fields

I am reposting a post I wrote for our APX Blog since I am still figuring out where to publish what.

Picture of a wall in our APX office.

As a founder, you need a never-ending supply of energy and optimism. You also need to be able to imagine the future you are building. In my experience, the challenge is to also always stay connected with the reality of everyone else.

You have a dream, and you imagine how things will be. Then, you turn this into hypotheses that you and your cofounders test and hopefully turn them into products, a business, and in the end, a reality. Along the way, you have to convince yourself, team members, angels, investors, partners, customers, and users to join along on your journey.

Some founders have a reality distortion field around them at times. They seem to already be in their own reality but that also means that they still need to create this reality for the others. This mindset can be beneficial, as it boosts your drive and enthusiasm. On the other hand, it is also dangerous to trick yourself in believing that things are moving a lot faster towards what you want them to be, as opposed to the reality; where change is happening much slower than you think. The potential danger is that you might make the wrong decisions and your investors will likely notice the widening gap between your perception of reality and their’s. In the long run, there is also a danger that perceived facts turn into blurry realities and in the end, into something an objective observer might see as a lie. This, is very negative for your reputation.

We always work with the founders on translating their dreams into traction. This is a multistep process that, of course, is different for every company. However, I have noticed some common patterns that you can apply and help you in structuring a process for your startup: Have a clear vision of what you want to do. Followed by:

  1. Quantifying and qualifying your vision into clear hypothesis.
  2. Test your hypothesis with the market. The more granular and pragmatic the better. One of my learning is to build this approach into as many of your processes as possible.
  3. Find traction — best in multiple dimensions and documentable by data (Guess what our next blog posts will be about!):
  • Product-market fit — do people use your product?
  • Sales & Marketing — can you “sell” and “grow” your product?
  • Business Model — can you show business growth?
  • Employee traction — do you attract great people?
  • Investor readiness — do investors line up to invest?
  • Execution-Flow — can you get your organization into a flow state where everything just works? (Check out our portfolio company Flowletics for this!)

In general, have: short + long, micro + macro, and quantitative + qualitative answers for the following questions:

  1. What does success look like?
  2. How do we get there?

You always have to balance the amount of vision and reality you share and deliver. Good founders are able to do this in their communications. Excellent founders can do this in real-time, will build a track record, and have a high predictability of turning dreams into traction and business.

serial starter, Axel Springer Porsche MD, Bahlsen Board, co-founder, Berliner Stadtmission, tech enthusiast.

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