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Why Start-ups Should Execute at Lightning Speed

Whether you’re hiring, deciding on pricing, or iterating — be swift

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BY Tanya Mariano - 09 May 2017


PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

To stay ahead, you have to move fast.

This is especially true for early-stage start-ups, and those that are bootstrapping.

You may have all the ingredients that make for a promising venture -- passion, a phenomenal idea, a great team -- “but if you don't know how to execute at lightning speed, you shouldn't be an entrepreneur. That's the kiss of death,” says Chatri Sityodtong, MMA fighter and founder of ONE Championship, Asia’s biggest sports media property.

Speaking at the recently concluded Inc. 40 Philippine Forum, Chatri recounts how, when he started ONE Championship, they had three or four other competitors. But he “blew them out of the water” by sheer speed of execution. “[W]e were just so much faster than they were. We out-executed every single one of them until they went bankrupt.”

Serial entrepreneur and academician Steve Blank agrees, citing that start-ups should learn how to decide quickly. “In a start-up, it doesn’t matter if you’re 100% right 100% of the time. What matters is having forward momentum and a tight fact-based feedback loop... to help you quickly recognize and reverse any incorrect decisions,” he writes.

“That’s why start-ups are agile,” according to Blank. “By the time a big company gets the committee to organize the subcommittee to pick a meeting date, your start-up could have made 20 decisions, reversed five of them, and implemented the fifteen that worked.”


Hire fast, fire faster

This should apply to every aspect of the business.

For instance, it’s important, particularly for early-stage start-ups, to make swift hiring decisions.

Says Jay Fajardo, founder and CEO at tech innovation hub Launchgarage and web engineering firm Proudcloud, and co-founder and CTO at health start-up Medifi, “For early-stage start-ups, the timeline / lifecycle context is accelerated, so it’s very important to get the right people on board as early as possible. Likewise, it’s important to let go of a bad hire as soon as possible because start-ups do not have the luxury of time.”

He says, “Many people don’t like the ‘hire fast, fire faster’ mantra, but with a clearly defined runway, it’s important to be as pragmatic as possible.”


Decide on pricing early

Decisions on pricing should also be done without delay.

Zendesk GM of Chat Royston Tay -- who founded Zopim, a bootstrapped start-up in Singapore that was acquired in 2014 by San Francisco-based Zendesk -- says bootstrapping companies should already start thinking about monetization once they have a minimum viable product.

“Being perfectionists, we kept delaying our pricing launch, thinking that our product wasn’t good enough... [but] we discovered that customers were jittery about a ‘free’ beta because they never knew how much we would eventually charge, or even whether we would be around one year later,” says Tay.

This holds true for most business-facing companies, he says, and he recommends launching pricing early and iterating quickly based on feedback.


Fail fast, iterate quickly

Failing fast -- and iterating quickly based on lessons learned from these failures -- is also something every founder should become comfortable with.

In a previous interview with Inc. Southeast Asia, LoanSolutions founder and CEO Jean Patrick Bisson said entrepreneurs should be willing to test out assumptions and try a lot of things, then “iterate, throw it at the wall, see if it sticks, and keep going.”

In short, you must be brave enough to fail repeatedly, quick enough to recover and iterate, and determined enough to want to go through that cycle again and again.

Says Bisson, “Not moving costs you a lot of money,” because your employees, office overhead, and other expenses will remain the same every month.

And so, inevitably, you’ll only ever truly fail if you're sluggish and would rather stay put.

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