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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Lerner

1,000 Wrong Turns

Updated: Jul 24, 2022

Here’s a little thought experiment.

We all know that every great startup made plenty of wrong turns. A16Z calls it “the idea maze” and it can take a long time! AirBnB took 5 years to get big traction, Slack took 7 and Notion needed 10.

But, how many wrong turns will your startup need to make? Obviously nobody knows, but just for the sake of discussion, let’s say you need to make exactly 1,000. Imagine your goal is to be wrong one thousand times, and then, after 1,000 failed experiments, attempt #1,001 would catapult you to ten-billion-dollars.

If you knew that, what would you do differently?

You would start testing stuff like crazy. Every department. Ten tests per week. Per employee. You’d hire data scientists and actual scientists, you’d teach everyone to run experiments, statistical significance, type 1 and type 2 errors. You might even get a tattoo of Dan Ariely.

Of course it’s not 1,000. We can't know the actual number. But what does that change?

If it’s a known number or an unknown number, why would that change your strategy?

So why don’t we experiment constantly? Because we’re hard-wired to want to be right, because that’s the optimal strategy in school and in normal jobs. But in startups, it slows us down because we’re cutting a new path, and we need to be wrong first. Many times. Maybe even 1,000.

The best salespeople, and there are not very many of them, welcome every rejection as "a step on the path to a yes.” (And the best investors back the team, not the idea).

Simple Next Step

I think you know this one. 😀 Get the tattoo.

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