Building a startup is hard work - just ask any of the teams participating in the NYU Summer Launchpad accelerator. As we enter week 6 of the 9-week program, teams are heads-down as they validate hypotheses surrounding their business models. Validation often comes in the form of getting outside of the building, talking to people, and determining if their startups are solving real problems experienced by real people.

To supplement the coaching with mentors, interviews with potential customers, and workshop programming, we also invite startup founders to the Leslie eLab to share their insights (and war stories) with the cohort. In the past two weeks, guest speakers have joined us from a wide variety of companies including MongoDB, Overtime, Techstars, FuckJerry, R/GA, and Sustain Natural. Here are a few pieces of advice from startup experts who have been in your shoes:

Admit to not knowing everything.

A lot of people can’t ask for help - they’re not comfortable or can’t admit to what they don’t know. On a good day, I still don't know 99% of what there is to know. I’m still learning.” - Jeffrey Hollander (Founder of Seventh Generation and Sustain Natural)

Entrepreneur Jeffrey Hollander noted the ability to ask for help as one of the key attributes of successful entrepreneurs during his Ask Me Anything event. Hollander advised teams to feel confident asking for help. As a founder, it is critical to know what you do well as well as where you need help. This will help you identify the areas where you may need outside advisors and/or make critical hires.

Prioritize learning over your product.

Focus on learning - not product. When you actually decide your goal is not the startup but the customers, your focus will become more clear. If your goal is to learn - it will allow you to hack, move fast, take risks, and get into the market.” - Giff Constable (VP of Product, Axial)

A large portion of startups fail, not because of a lack of technology, but because they don’t find the right product-market fit. During Giff Constable’s guest lecture on testing, he encouraged the teams to prioritize learning over the product. It is easy to become fully focused on your product and lose sight of the problem that you are trying to solve. Giff posits that focusing on learning enables founders to move faster, be more nimble, and take risks.

Be a savage.

You have to be a savage. You won’t roll out of bed and be successful because everyone will copy you or say your idea sucks. Unless you are insanely determined or think the world should be different — you just won’t make it.” - Dan Porter (CEO of Overtime)

Startups require a lot of grit and hard work. As Dan Porter puts it, successful founders need to be a savage. Being a founder is incredibly difficult and requires incredible focus and determination.  

Interested in learning more about the SLP accelerator and participating teams? Please join us for the Venture Showcase on August 8th.