I have (so far) been a part of two early-stage startups. The first one I Co-Founded, the second was joining a day 0 startup that aqui-hired myself and my Co-Founder from our first startup, both of them SaaS companies. I’m currently in the process of exploring starting a new venture in the SaaS space and as I explore I realized that there is something crucially important that I am doing that I did with the first two… I’m Listening.
As a young entrepreneur with relatively little experience in the SaaS industry (I’m 28 years old), I try to surround myself with people who are smarter and more experienced than myself. For any entrepreneur, if you can find yourself amongst successful peers you find yourself in an incredibly advantageous position.
Successful people know a lot about how to build a successful business in their industry, but more importantly, if you ask them the right questions and listen, they know more about the gaps and shortcomings faced in their industry. Those gaps/shortcomings are the gold.
Startups are the ultimate opportunists and they have to be. You are disrupting and industry with new technology, you are addressing a gap that is a blocker, you are providing new access to those that previously didn’t have it. How do you find this opportunities? You listen, Salesforce and Marc Benioff are a perfect example. Benioff in the 90s worked for Larry Ellison and Oracle, he has a successful career going but he listened to Oracle’s customers and realized they wanted a CRM solutions that was cheaper, more customizable and could be more easily scaled and changed with their business. This was the gold, Benioff heard it, in 1999 he founded Salesforce and the rest is history.
For entrepreneurs and startups listening is the key to unlocking new ideas, products and opportunities. Try to surround yourself with smart, successful people, ask good questions, keep your ear to the pavement and listen for those bits of gold.