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With 15 startups behind us over 20 years, we’ve learned a lot about the keys to venture success.

Most lessons come from experience. Some we’ve learned from trusted mentors and wise teachers. None come from conventional wisdom or common teachings.

As you read these three articles, we urge you to choose a law that resonates most with you and start applying it.

Why 42 laws? You’ll have to read through to the end to find out.

In this article, we’ll reveal laws 1-14. So, let’s make a start.

Law #1: Always have fun

Your business venture – and your life – must be fun. If not, change them.

Doing something hard doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy every step of the journey.

If your life is not fun and you can’t influence the things you don’t like, then do something – anything – else. Unhappiness won’t take you closer to your vision and purpose in life.

more than you can chew card.

Law #2: Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose

Building ventures is hard. Making stupid mistakes make it impossible. These include:

  • Maxing out your credit cards.
  • Drawing down on your mortgage.
  • Building your business on your employer’s time. 

These are the dumbest ways to bet – and lose – your relationship and reputation on one roll of the dice.

Law #3: Figure out how to stay in the game between ventures

‘Success’ – whatever that is for you – can take between five and 14 ventures.

So betting on a home run with your first swing is not smart.

If you have a mission and a purpose for your life, does it matter if it takes 20 years or a lifetime to achieve?

Law #4: Ask the right questions to get the right answers

If your task is to paint a wall, it doesn’t matter how good a job you do if you’ve put your ladder up against the wrong wall.

Always remember:

  • Think about the problem you are trying to solve.
  • Seek good counsel for the questions you are asking, not the answers you seek.
  • You own the outcome. Don’t attempt to outsource the inputs.

Law #5: Careful what you ask for because that’s what you’re likely to receive

The universe has a canny way of providing exactly what you ask for when you need it –  and not a moment sooner.

By learning how to ask clearly and specifically, you will tap into a set of positive coincidences and opportunities.

We call this accelerated serendipity – and it is easy to miss.

This law connects with the concepts of reciprocity and synchronicity. And it applies whether you are talking about co-founders, fans, customers, investors or partners.

get what you seek.

Law #6: Design everything for the end result and work back from that

This law applies to your product, business exit, partner, and how your venture might grow to a team of 30 people.

Think about the finish line at the start of your journey. This makes every challenge an opportunity. Then every milestone becomes a waypoint en route to your final destination.

Law #7: Culture is everything status is nothing

Who you say you are and how you represent yourself is irrelevant.

Build your culture from day one. Only hire people who culturally fit your organisation, not because of their skills or ability.

Hiring someone only because they have the right credentials, pedigree, or track record, is a risk you must avoid.

Great performers don’t always add value to your team. Instead, they can destroy it if they’re the wrong fit.

Primadonnas are toxic to startup culture. If you can’t tell the difference between confidence and arrogance, seek sage guidance before you bring that new person on board.

Law #8: One plus one can equal 3

Two people combined can create much more than twice the output of one person alone.

In building towards your success, the journey can be lonely. Your capacity to build, share the load, and celebrate is enhanced by having the right partners to work with.

Would you really want to do it alone? You aren’t competent at everything, so having a working partner enhances your chances of success in many ways.

Wise teacher.

Law #9: Experience may not always be the wisest teacher

The value of experience cannot be overstated, but often, the wisest teacher is, in fact, a wise teacher.

Every problem you will face can be overcome by a clearer perspective and better guidance before taking more action.

Law #10: Think Bigger – A big bold venture takes just as much work as a small meek one

It’s just as hard to build a big business as a small one.

So, if you are going to do the work anyway, why settle for a small business?

To build a bigger business, change your:

  • Value proposition,
  • Business model, or
  • Service delivery model.

The only change necessary can be as simple as seeking better advice from good mentors.

Law #11: There’s no 158-step formula to success,  just 2. The 1st step – and everything else it takes to get there

The ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, once said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

He’s right. The steps that take you closer to your vision are the only ones that matter.

But you can’t predict in advance which activities will be the steps that really matter. So:

  • Get a vision.
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Develop et a plan.
  • Invest in your future self.
  • Back yourself by putting the wheels in motion. 

What have you got to lose apart from another decade or more working for someone else to achieve their life vision?

startup structure diagram.

Law #12: All models are wrong but some are useful

Financial models are only useful because they help you see all the inputs and factors that go into the success equation.

Change one or two variables in the model, however, and it’s all wrong. So the proper equation – and therefore the outcomes – are unknowable in advance.

Instead, focus on understanding the factors. Nobody achieves “success by spreadsheet”

Law #13: You already have everything you need to succeed

People succeed because of their attitude – and what they learn about themselves – not from what’s in their business plan.

Changing your attitude is sometimes necessary to reach your next success milestone.

And sometimes you need to spend time discovering what you need to give up to become the person you always wanted to be.

Law #14: ‘That’s really cool’ – the three little words your customers must tell you  

How do you know when you’ve got a viable business?

When your customers can’t wait to pay for, share and evangelise your offering.

That only occurs when they love the outcome they get from using what you are selling. It’s when your sales can go viral.

Forget shooting for a Minimum Viable Product. Aim instead for ‘Minimum Lovable Product‘. This is when you know your business is viable – not just the product.

Plenty of helpful advice and guidance is waiting for you. Continue to Powerful Startup Laws You Need To Know #15 – #28.