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On Building Anti-Fragile Startups - Part 3 - Robust Startups

Updated: May 5, 2023

This article is part 3 of a series of articles discussing how we can build anti-fragile startups. I defined in Part 1 the three systems that a startup may fall under one of them. Part 2 characterized fragile startups. In this article, I describe what defines a robust startup. The next article will define anti-fragile startups.

What Defines a Robust Startup?

There are several things startups can do to become robust entities and increase their chances of long-term success. Most of the startup community has focused on robustness over the last two decades. Being robust makes the startup stronger over time. But robustness doesn’t mean it can get stronger as it faces the stresses of its early days. Founders need to build a robust organization no matter what. But they need to differentiate between building a strong organization and an organization that actually gets stronger as it faces uncertainty and adversity from the market and competition.

A Robust Startup is an evolving entity. If Robustness is not designed to be part of its structure, strategy, culture, and team, it will quickly slip into becoming a fragile startup and eventually disappear under the stresses of the market and competition.

A Robust startup is an entity that is constantly evolving around these principles.

Assemble the RIGHT Team

A startup's success heavily depends on the people who make up its team. Founders should prioritize hiring skilled, experienced individuals passionate about the company's mission and values. As a matter of fact, the first process that you should formalize and heavily scrutinize is your hiring process. The next one is your onboarding process, even for employee #1.

Product-Market Fit As Everyone’s North Star

Reaching PMF is the w Startups must identify a target market and develop a product or service that meets its needs. Founders should continuously test and iterate on their product to ensure it resonates with customers.

Establish Repeatability for Sustained Growth

There is no silver bullet for a startup to grow and become robust. It is all about iterating and improving in each iteration. If you are experimenting to reach PMF, each experiment cannot be better than the one before without having a good handle on how it works. That’s why a process, even with creative tasks, is key to startup resiliency and growth.

Startup Brand is a Product

Gone are the days of startups building unique products. You will find at least 10 other startups building products or services for each great idea. Your customers build business relationships with you and your startup. Your reputation and brand are key to a strong, healthy relationship. It is not about a shiny brand. It is about what makes others trust you. Your brand should reflect who you are.

Secure Resources For Experimentation

Many entrepreneurs confuse resources with funding. It could be funding only if you can secure smart capital. But you need investor partners who understand the challenges of the early stage and the need to experiment and iterate on finding your PMF. As an entrepreneur/founder, your core job is to make resources available for your team to have a safe and healthy experimentation environment.

Foster a Dynamic Culture

Dynamic is more important than innovation. A startup is a temporary organization until the team finds a repeatable and scalable business. That’s why a dynamic culture aware of each stage and what matters to reach the next stage is key to building a robust startup.

Final Thoughts

Seasoned entrepreneurs understand what it means to build a robust startup. It takes years of hard work to take a startup from a fragile entity to a strong, robust business.

My next article will discuss in depth how to build resiliency in a startup and how that startup gets stronger in the face of adversities and evolves into an anti-fragile entity!

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