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The Founders’ Paradox: Why You Need To Focus On One Project At A Time, But Not Close The Door To Other Opportunities



While you can’t spread yourself too thin, it’s also important not to totally close yourself off to new ideas or opportunities that might come through your door––especially if those opportunities are themselves products of a problem you’re attempting to solve in your current venture. 

When it comes to company building, it pays to focus on one project at a time. Startups need care and commitment. After all, that’s the only way they grow.

This might seem obvious to some, but a problem many founders run into is that they often have multiple ideas they want to pursue at once. As a result, they get distracted. The trouble with that is it’s impossible for one person to focus fully on multiple ventures at the same time. You simply spread yourself too thin. That’s why, generally, it’s best to give your all to the one project or startup that has shown you the most promise.

Here, however, is where we get to the founders’ paradox: while you can’t spread yourself too thin, it’s also important not to totally close yourself off to new ideas or opportunities that might come through your door––especially if those opportunities are themselves products of a problem you’re attempting to solve in your current venture. 

The ideas which eventually turn into great companies are often born from problems you’ve experienced first hand. 

This is something I learned early on in my entrepreneurial career. When my partner, Wojtek, and I were building our first company, Modasphere, we kept running into issues related to billing, so we built a solution for that. In the process, we realized that a lot of other companies were probably dealing with the exact same thing, yet there didn’t seem to be any other tools offering the sort of solution we’d come up with. 

That’s how our second company––Surebilling––was born. 

Most entrepreneurs have no shortage of ideas. 

But here’s the thing: if you go about fleshing each idea out strictly myopically––keeping your head down and your blinders tightly fastened––you’ll inevitably miss out on the opportunities which, in time and with patience, could prove even more lucrative. 

In fact, when it was time for Wojtek and I to start Surebilling, because we kept our eyes open all the while, we came across the idea that would eventually turn into our third company. 

While building Surebilling, we were also helping our friends grow their own companies with our free time. And that work––assisting other founders in their entrepreneurial pursuits––eventually turned into VentureDevs, which we’re moulding today. 

To be open to new ideas and opportunities is, more so, to keep your eyes open for new and important problems to solve. 

It bears repeating: you can’t sacrifice your current venture, whatever it might be, in favor of working on something new. 

That’s not what Wojtek and I have ever done. You can’t neglect the company you’re the CEO of in favor of focusing on what you hope to do after an exit, for example. In fact, one reason I’m so excited about VentureDevs right now is Wojtek and I are very much focused on building it, but in the process of doing that, it requires us to meet with growing companies across a wide array of industries, technologies, and even company stages. This allows us to stoke our passion of growing our company while also giving us the opportunity to meet new people and companies doing exciting things.

Essentially, it enables us to have the best of both worlds, and it also provides a great vantage point to recognize what the next important problem of the future might be. 

And solving important problems is how most great companies come to fruition.

Of course, simply being open to new ideas or opportunities isn’t what makes for a successful company.

When you decide to lean into a new idea––when you’re ready––the same timeless principles of company building apply.  

It’s a matter of: 

  • Testing your ideas
  • Identifying what the data suggests to be effective
  • Focusing your energy on turning that thing into the best, most effective version of itself.

It was committing to this formula which allowed Wojtek and me the requisite data to identify VentureDevs as a good opportunity, and to then invest ourselves purposefully into growing it. 

Now we’re in the process of compiling an amazing team, getting feedback, identifying our processes that work and the ones that don’t, and identifying which clients are succeeding and why––essentially, the basics of starting something cohesive and powerful. It’s exciting and a huge part of the process. 

My point here, though, is we didn’t get to this place by accident. 

In the world of startups, things are hardly ever accidents.

At the end of the day, my advice is this: be proud of your company––commit to it––but always keep your eyes open for what may come next as it may lead to something even bigger than what you are currently focused on. This is critical to building anything with an agile mindset.

To keep your eyes down indefinitely without constantly evaluating what you are doing may ultimately hold you back from––if not make you completely miss out on––a bigger opportunity. 

Here are other related articles you might find helpful:

I’ve Invested In Startups Across Industries. These Are The 2 Biggest Mistakes I See Founders Make When Pitching Their Ideas

Should You Bootstrap Your Company During Its First Year? Here’s What To Consider Before Making The Decision

The 5 Things You Need To Discuss With Your Co-Founder Before Starting Your Business Together

Joe Gardner is the co-founder and CEO of VentureDevs, an award-winning software development firm with over 100 employees providing digital product strategy, design, and development services to top startups and global enterprises. He's also a managing partner at Advantage Ventures, an early-stage investment fund based in LA, and an investor in 9 startups with 2 unicorns ( and WheelsUp). Joe has founded 3 companies with 2 acquisitions (Modasphere and Surebilling) and is a contributing writer to Forbes, Entrepreneur, and similar publications.

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