When talking to a founder or early employee in an early stage startup I always start by asking “What do you guys do?” After that, I follow up with “What do you personally do in the startup?” When they answer, I like to mentally categorize it in one of two buckets: selling or building. If the person provides a long answer without much clarity, I’ll make my question more specific and say, “Do you sell or build?”
One of the goals with this line of questioning is to get the person to focus on selling and/or building. Too often, I hear that people focus on things like strategic direction, managing an advisory board, etc. Those are important occasional things, but shouldn’t be the day-to-day focus of a few person startup. Once product / market fit is achieved, more team members are brought on, and there’s room for specialization, it makes sense to branch out. Until then, almost all of the effort should be either selling or building.
What else? What are your thoughts on simplifying the seed stage startup experience as either selling or building?