Founders: Avoid Death by Assumption
“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
— Isaac Asimov
When you’re building a company, your ability to make good assumptions can be the difference between skyrocketing or skydiving. A few bad calls in a larger business can be damaging, but in an early stage startup it can be — and often is — fatal.
A roadmap to better
At Fruitful we’ve made a conscious effort to get better at making assumptions. We do this by mapping out the following on what we call an assumption roadmap™
For the upcoming months, we unroll a stretch of paper and stick:
- Blue Post-its → for what we assume we can do.
An example being: We will raise a new round of venture investment because we’ve built our product and are ready for go-to-market.
- Red Post-its → for things that could undo the above (namely, risk factors).
E.g. Investors pass on us because they can’t get comfortable with our costs to acquire new customers.
- Green Post-its → for contingencies that we develop.
E.g. Use investor feedback to rework the pitch / consider a change in strategy / reach out to previous investors to jumpstart the round / collect data to make our pitch more compelling / secure a bridge loan (lol).
Assumption Roadmaps FTW
As a team, we’ve found the exercise to be pretty helpful since it:
- Forces you to think of worst case scenarios — every headstrong founder hates doing this but it’s important for so many reasons that go way beyond the role of this article.
- Encourages brainstorming of contingencies — and trust me, you’ll need these.
- Serves as a visual overview of
(1) important assumptions we have over the next few months
(2) where have a large number of risk factors
(3) where we’re looking shallow on fallbacks for said risk factors.
Most importantly, this role your sleeves-up approach to planning is quick and simple — making it accessible for everyone on your team to contribute.
★ For extra points, use the Post-It Plus app to rearrange, organise and share your assumption roadmaps anytime after your planning sesh.