I’ve worked in 3 startups in the Midwest. When I moved to Columbus startup scene was pretty much non existent. In the past three years we’ve gotten our first unicorn and a few post series A companies.

I learned a lot by being on the front lines of all of that growth. Here are two lessons I’ve taken from all of my experience combined:

You Must Optimize For Learning

One of the most important things a startup needs to do is to optimize for learning. It should constantly learn from it’s customers, competitors and market. Why is that?

Well as soon as a startup stops focusing on learning and starts worrying about ping pong tables it starts to lose its competitive edge. Part of the reason why startups can disrupt markets and win against big companies is because they can fail fast, learn from their mistakes and go at it again.

How does one optimize for learning? That’s a blog post in itself and there are a few books written on that topic. A good start would be to make sure you regularly collect feedback from your customers and that you regularly do market research.

Push & Pull

There is a decent chance that if you want to have a successful startup, you’ll need to figure out when to push really hard and when to step back and observe.

Why not push hard all the time? Certain lessons can only be learned by not rushing things and taking your time to think and reflect.

Here’s an example: I was part of a very talented team and we just raised our seed round. A few months after that a key team member left and we panicked. We pushed harder out of fear. We spent our nights and weekends trying to increase our revenue and build features we didn’t need to satisfy customers we didn’t have. This resulted in a bad product, unhappy customers and an unhappy team. Instead we should have stopped, reflected on what happened and made an informed decision based on that.

Every time you see things not working out for a prolonged period of time ask yourself should you step back, think about bigger picture and see where you should go or should you just keep pressing forward?

Part 2 of this post is in the works where I'll share a few more lessons that will hopefully help you in your startup journey. As always feel free to reach out if you have any feedback, comments etc.