A startup just had its big launch. The fundraising is over and the champagne has been poured. For some, this is the great beginning. But, for others, it's the zenith.
Momentum is easy to lose, especially after a big adrenaline rush.
Momentum is that invisible force that makes it easy to execute when things are moving, and difficult to get anything done in a languishing environment. The problem is that the natural resting state of companies (and really, anything) is to lose momentum. You have to actively work to maintain momentum.
On Y Combinator's homepage, Paul Graham emphasizes that the program doesn't end on demo day. A network of support continues throughout the life of each company.
But, there's an underlying message: just because the dinners have ended doesn't mean you should stop working hard! Building a company isn't a 3 month affair.
Demo day is only a passing milestone--the important work is when you build on the foundation to create a sustainable business after the launch dust settles. Many startups, even the most hyped ones, sputter after launch. They fail to achieve the momentum necessary to carry the ball forward. And this is a shame, because many of these companies haven't even had time to test their business hypothesis.
So, how do you maintain momentum?
1. Don't pin everything on one moment
It's a red flag when companies place too much importance on a single event like a launch, partnership, or funding. These have significance, but, by themselves, they do not equal success.
A string of these events, coupled with sustaining a culture of execution leads to success. After hitting a milestone, your eyes should already be fixed on the next one.
After a successful demo day, my co-founders and I at Parse were already looking ahead to the next big milestones in the months after. There was no time to waste.
2. Set both short and long term goals
Setting and achieving goals is crucial. There are always goals for your company to achieve, and to get there, you need action. You need to set achievable short term goals alongside big goals.
Hitting small goals gives you the momentum to hit other small goals. Soon, you'll find that you're well on your way to hitting the big goals.
Some people find it difficult to set a timeline for goals, simply because life doesn't hand you a timeline on a silver platter. So, set artificial deadlines! You'll be surprised by how much the simple act of circling a date will motivate you.
3. Don't get complacent
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.
Getting lazy after a big launch is like relaxing after assembling only one wing. You still need to assemble the other wing! Not to mention the engines.
4. Build a culture of doers
When momentum is lost, there usually isn't one person at fault. Every single person contributes to how well a company executes. The key is to be a doer and hire people who are doers.
These are people that will be able to conquer any task. Even if the task is outside their wheelhouse or seemingly insurmountable.
In the end, building a startup is hard work. Momentum is the flow needed to launch and vet your product in the market.
Don't lose your momentum!
We're also hiring at Parse. Check out our jobs page.