I did all sorts of different things in my life as you might have noticed by now (even though I still feel like I could have done so much more). But there’s still one thing I haven’t talked about yet.
I was a management trainee for a little bit over a year in a large corporation in Germany.
I saw all sorts of different things there, for example how a large corporation really works from the inside, the importance of politics and even more importantly why most large corporations will never ever be able to innovate like startups (shareholder value, margins that are so tight that they can’t just tank a few millions, etc.).
But the most important thing I learned was something else.
The most important thing I learned in these few months was how important it is that each and every employee (including top management) has to be put in front of real customers.
Part of the program was a one week long visit of a store (where you were actually working in the store trying to sell things as well as customer service).
Even though I didn’t really sell anything, didn’t really help any customers or created any other value for the people there, it helped to understand the entire concept of technology push and technology pull a lot better.
These two concepts that I only knew from my university days were now happening right in front of my own eyes and I just couldn’t believe how powerful all of this was.
Products that seemed to make so much sense when they were created in cubicles and people’s heads didn’t make any sense at all anymore once they were presented to real customers.
And I feel that this is one of the biggest problems that we are currently facing, be it as entrepreneurs, solopreneurs (like me) or large corporations in pretty much every country in the world.
We’re just too damn afraid of “showing our art” to any potential customers early on. People might say no to our products and that might destroy the small fairytale kind of dream land that we built around our ideas and products.
And of course, it's also a matter of ego (I'm guilty of this myself over and over again).
And the funniest thing I realized over the years is the fact that the more money we have and the longer our runrate, the longer we try to prevent this moment from happening.
We want to live in our cozy and warm dream castle as long as possible (because we can).
What I also realized is that people that don’t have any money at all and don’t have anything to lose seem to be a lot quicker in validating or “unvalidating” their initial set of ideas and products.
That’s where the meaning of “fail fast, fail often” gets a whole other meaning.
If you live in a city like San Francisco, New York or in the Valley you have to validate or invalidate your entire business within a few months or you’re dead.
If you don’t see any considerable traction (whatever that might look like, best case a lot of money) within a few months you have to move on to something new.
It’s just way too expensive there.
Having to pay rent in one of these places will kill you within a few months if you’re not able to generate any tangible results and don’t have any other revenue streams.
To me that’s the reason why so many successful people from these places tell you to fail fast and fail often if you want to be successful.
On another note:
I wonder how long you can survive with $5k in the Valley compared to Berlin…