Is there a formulaic way to build a great startup? Today’s guest, Maxim Wheatley thinks so. Maxim comes from a very diverse background - he is an award-winning product leader and innovator, with proven success operating at the intersection of business development, innovation, and product strategy. Additionally, he is the co-founder of LifeFuels, a company that aims to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning in order to to diagnose, manage, and cure health ailments. Maxim’s thoughts on entrepreneurship boil down to three basic tenets: “Dream big and start small, constantly seek new questions to answer, and remember that it’s the people who turn ideas into companies,” he says.
‘Dream Big & Start Small’
While it’s important to have vision, it’s also important to get comfortable to with taking small steps. “Like [Reddit Founder] Alexis Ohanian says, ‘Entrepreneur is a fancy word for someone who has ideas and does them’,” Maxim says. While having a big vision important, he urges entrepreneurs to figure out the small and intricate steps involved in helping them achieve their goals. He believes the lean startup culture has a certain bias to action that restricts founders from making moves as often as they should. “Early wins build momentum,” he remarks, “There is magic in relentlessly pushing as opposed to elegantly leaping.”
‘Constantly Seek New Questions to Answer’
Having a background in consumer electronic products, Maxim understands the hiccups that can come about when launching a business. “Great products are oriented around prototype questions. “If we’re doing something that doesn’t answer a question, it’s time to readjust,” he says. He urges entrepreneurs to constantly ask new questions and evaluate whether those questions link up to the ‘dream big’ portion of his theory. “Entrepreneurship can be a difficult and lonely road,” he mentions, “Asking new questions and getting them answered can provide you with a sense of victory.” While an inquisitive nature is important, Maxim warns against falling into an “incubator mentality”. Although testing can ensure success for future endeavors, he believes that there is “no validation or testing that will take away from the fact that you need to start taking action.”
‘It’s the People Who Turn Ideas into Companies’
Developing a team is a crucial part of turning ideas into a bonafide operation. If you had $5M and no one wanted to work for you, or $100K and seven people that were excited about your business opportunity, which scenario would you pick? “I’d pick the latter every time,” Maxim says. While many entrepreneurs find themselves working solo due to fear of criticism, egocentrism or lack of cash flow, he urges them to explore additional measures. “Find out how to pay people in different ways,” he says. Maxim recommends that entrepreneurs use their vision, as opposed to misguided promises of wealth, to attract their team. “Identify other currencies you have at your disposal. Find ways to help [your team] meet their short term and long term goals,” he says. By giving people the opportunity to be apart of something meaningful, he believes entrepreneurs will curate loyal teams.
Staying on Track
In order to stay focused, Maxim is intentional about these principles. While many startups often attract unsolicited opinions, he believes that successful founders understand how to weed through the noise, filter the quality feedback and turn it into meaningful action. Additionally, he stresses that goals should be simple. “The startup lifestyle is dog years multiplied by ten,” he laughs, “You have to try and not get too caught up in long term planning.” Rather, Maxim suggests that founders take time to ensure that their everyday activities are aligned with their bigger vision. He suggests that founders should ask themselves, “Is there meaningful progress? Are you creating something that you can show and evaluate? If not, change course.”