Businesses and organizations are looking for ways to move digital transformation forward, and technology is advancing – setting the stage for opportunities to bring new software solutions to market. However, developers ready to launch a software startup – or to expand a current business into new areas may be unsure the time is right.
Eli Finkelshteyn, CEO and founder of Constructor, an AI search and discovery platform, shares his insights into how to make your launch in 2022 the foundation of a successful business for years to come.
What advice can you give startup founders planning to launch in 2022?
Finkelshteyn: Don’t try to boil the ocean. Too often, VCs or people on your own team will try to push you to expand past your target niche because it’ll increase the size of your total addressable market. Remember that every time you do that, you make it harder to please the customers you have because you dilute the value you’re creating for them. In other words, focus, focus, focus. Make something a few people love, and when they trust you with their business, focus more on repaying their trust than signing the next deal. Do right by the people who buy your product. Work to make their lives better. Trust begets more trust, but more importantly, you’ll build a business you can be proud of.
What are some of the top considerations for founders in an increasingly competitive talent environment?
Finkelshteyn: Don’t stress too much about hiring the person with the best resume. Everyone wants to hire that person, and for that reason, they’re often overvalued. Instead, try to work out what qualities that person had before they saw success, and find someone with those qualities who hasn’t seen success yet. It’s easy to give responsibility to the person who’s already been at Google, Facebook, and Amazon. However, if you give the right, driven, hungry person their first shot, they’ll often do even better than that person with the star-studded resume who’s already seen success and isn’t as hungry anymore.
What advice do you have for founders of AI-specific startups? How can they tackle user fear and misunderstanding of new tech, specifically AI?
Finkelshteyn: Choose to stay on the right side of history instead of making a quick buck. For instance, don’t be that person who abuses users’ privacy because it’s lucrative. Even if you’re successful in the short term, you won’t be happy in the long term.
How can startup founders break through in crowded industries?
Finkelshteyn: Focus on a niche and talk to your customers as much as you can. Really understand what makes them successful, and don’t stop learning even when you reach product-market fit. Always work to understand them a little more and bring them a bit more joy.
What have you learned from starting Constructor? Is there anything you would have done differently?
Finkelshteyn: A lot of the stuff people think is important in starting a startup isn’t. People pay too much attention to how much a company fundraised as a measure of how successful they are, but it’s not a good metric. If you can’t, it doesn’t matter how much you’ve raised or how cool your investors are. What really matters is how much your customers love what you’ve built and how much value you can bring them. If you can bring your customers value, you’ll figure out the rest.