Leadership / Technology

Start-ups Should Start With “Why?”

In a guest post originally appearing on Gadgets, I explain why starts-ups should start with why. This is a critical, cognitive first step to success – and often the hardest. There are so may competing priorities and questions that a start-up focuses on in the early days that often the fundamental ones get lost.

Very few start-ups clearly articulate why they do what they do.

The clear purpose, cause or mission of the start-up is the key motivator for investors and customers. It answers the question: “Why should I care about this?”.

Many start-ups I meet are focused on the technical method of how to deliver their solution to the market. While this is a natural requirement, it is not where the entity should start. The ‘how’ process outlines specific actions which can be taken to realise the ‘why’ and therefore without a clear ‘why’, the ‘how’ is misplaced.

Starting with why means that a start-up can focus on the person it serves (the ‘who’) and develop a vision that sells. Indeed, it is correct to say that it is a start-up’s vision (not its products) that draws-in investors. In turn, this vision shapes the start-up and reminds its core team what it needs to prioritise over time. As the author Simon Sinek put it: “All organizations (should) start with why, but only the great ones keep their why clear year after year.”  Indeed, it takes discipline and good communication skills to reinforce the ‘why’ over time.

Starting with why means that a start-up can focus on the person it serves (the ‘who’) and develop a vision that sells

When we stated EBO, and still today, our ‘why’ was motivated by a strong moral sense that AI should be democratised: that is, that the benefits of Artificial Intelligence should be available to companies of all sizes, whether big or small. We were (and are) equally focused on the idea that companies should connect in a more meaningful way with their customers, thus freeing-up staff to add value where it matters most.

This ‘why’ has allowed us the single-minded purpose to transform the customer engagement industry by providing the right tools (our ‘how’) to improve efficiency and drive down operational costs (our ‘what’).

Knowing your ‘why’ is the start-up’s first step. On from that it’s hard work. And it’s supposed to be hard work. First attempts rarely work and it takes a lot out of the founding team to ratchet the company forward … but energy is an asset we can always find more of. It’s an excellent renewable resource!

Photo by Per Lööv on Unsplash

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