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The Different Worldviews of a Startup

Written by Ash Maurya

In his book, “All Marketers are Liars Tell Stories”, Seth Godin defines a “worldview” as the set of rules, values, beliefs, and biases people bring to a situation. He offers a strategy of not trying to change a person’s worldview but rather framing your story in terms of their pre-existing worldview.

This concept of worldviews also applies to startups which I’ll illustrate using the Lean Canvas. For those unfamiliar with a Lean Canvas, it is a one-page blueprint of the basic building blocks that define your startup or product.

Different people – entrepreneurs, customers, investors, advisors, all see a startup differently.

Entrepreneurs

When entrepreneurs are hit by an idea, they are naturally drawn to the solution box and often spend a disproportionate amount of time designing or building their solution (alone). They fall in love with “awesome”. Sometimes that awesome is truly awesome for other people. Most times, however, it’s not.

This is why the solution box was made purposefully small on the canvas. It is first to encourage entrepreneurs to think in terms of the smallest thing they could possibly build to test their vision (a minimum viable product). And second, to highlight that there are eight other boxes on the canvas that are equally important (some even more important) in making their product successful.

Customers

When customers view your product or startup, they don’t care about your solution. They are already constantly bombarded with enough product offerrings. What gets their attention first of all is identity – do you understand who they are? Once they know you are targeting them, do you have something compelling to offer – what is your value proposition? If the first two resonate, the next thing they turn to is pricing – is it commensurate with value?

This is the worldview typically shared by early customers (or early adopters). Truly visionary customers (innovators) might be hooked just by the problem definition, while mainstream customers (early/late majority) need more social proof – a.k.a traction (Key Metrics).

Investors

When investors look at your startup, they too don’t care about your solution but are weighing your startup (or business model) as an investment. The thing that matters above all else is traction. If you have good traction, you can almost always convince the right investor to write you a check. Short of that validation, investors rely on other proxies to gauge their investment risk. Investors do care about the customers you are targeting but not in terms of who they are but how many they are – market size. The next that matters is the intersection between your revenue streams and cost structure – or how you will make money. And finally your unfair advantage story or defensibility against copy-cats/competition.

Advisors

Advisors too bring in their own unique worldviews, but unlike the others, their worldviews are driven by their past experiences and interests. That is why it is important to surround yourself with complementary advisors and be as open and honest with them. When you simply practice “success theater” with them, while it may result in a pat on the back, it misses out on a huge opportunity for learning.


Each of the boxes in the canvas represents risks or objections you must overcome towards building a successful startup. The true job of an entrepreneur then is to systematically de-risk their startup over time. It helps to appreciate the different worldviews other people carry with them and frame your story accordingly.

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