Founders, Remove This 4 Letter Word From Your Vocabulary
When I first started my startup, I often used the word just when talking about what we’d accomplished.
We just had five customers.
We just raised a pre-seed round.
It‘s just me and the CTO.
When I meet other founders, I often hear them using the “j word” too.
This is problematic because we’re constantly sub-consciously diminishing our accomplishments by using the word just. Over time, we start to believe that we haven’t accomplished much and get discouraged. Especially when you’re early on, and morale is so important, getting discouraged can kill your startup much faster than running out of money. New businesses do not start from thin air. They must start somewhere.
Airbnb was just some guys with air mattresses in their apartment.
DoorDash was just a crappy landing page and flyers thrown up around Stanford’s campus.
Uber (formerly UberCab) was also just a basic landing page that violates almost every web design principle.
Where does “just” come from?
To get your first customer, you worked your ass off. You hustled, you got through rejections, you iterated your product, you went through countless changes. When you landed that first customer. You were proud.
And then, you told someone about it.
Whether it was a friend or potential investor, and they probably said something like.
Congrats! But, it’s just one customer…
The more people you told, the more you heard a similar response. Before you know it, you were starting to use the “j word” and say that you had just one customer despite all of your hard work.
Other people use the word just because the vast majority of people have only worked at large companies or late-stage startups. They have no idea what it takes to go from Zero to One — the hardest part of a startup. Despite VCs working with many startups, their definition of “early-stage” is a startup with thousands of dollars in monthly revenue and dozens or more customers.
The Solution: Replace just with “so far” or “yet”
Instead of framing your accomplishments as a destination, frame your accomplishments as the starting point. Use words like “so far” or “yet” to indicate that this is only a starting point.
We have five customers so far.
So far, we raised a pre-seed round.
It‘s me and the CTO so far.
Alternatively, you can also remove subjective language and simply say, “We have five customers” or “We raised a pre-seed round”.
- Remove the “j word” from your vocabulary
- The “j word” kills morale and isn’t accurate because going from Zero to One is the most difficult part of a startup
- Replace it with words like “so far” or “yet”
- Or remove subjective language all together