Founders Get Real: Navigating the Startup Journey

After spending years running EMPEQ, we felt it was finally time for us to pull the curtain back on the whirlwind of highs, lows, and everything in between that comes with building a B2B SaaS startup.

By Herbert Dwyer, MBA and Derek LaClair, MBA

After spending years running EMPEQ, we felt it was finally time for us to pull the curtain back on the whirlwind of highs, lows, and everything in between that comes with building a B2B SaaS startup. This blog is our first in a series where we plan to share a raw and honest look at the entrepreneurial journey as we’ve lived it. Each topic we cover stems from our real experiences – not a word of fiction to be found. It hasn’t been a walk in the park, but these hard-won lessons have truly shaped our entrepreneurial mindset and we hope that by sharing them we will help fellow founders realize that even the best-intentioned advice from mentors outside the arena often falls woefully short.

Pivoting Takes Guts

Pivoting—it’s a term that gets thrown around a lot in startup circles, often with a mix of excitement and anxiety. But here’s the truth: pivoting takes guts. It’s about recognizing when your current path isn’t leading where you hoped and having the courage to change course. Whether it’s refining your product-market fit, adjusting your pricing strategy, or even pivoting your entire business model, embracing drastic change can be essential for growth. Remember, some of the most successful companies today started with a pivot that redefined their trajectory. When EMPEQ made the decision to move away from a finance-first approach to launch Fast Site SurveyTM we were branded as a company that couldn’t stay focused; what the nay-sayers didn’t realize was we were simply going where our customers were leading us. Ultimately, nobody knows your business better than you and it takes courage to take one step back to move two steps forward.

Investors Invest into Teams, Not Just Business Models

Securing investment for your startup is a milestone that often hinges more on the team behind the business than the business model itself. Investors look for passion, resilience, and a team that can execute through challenges. So, while your business model and market potential are crucial, don’t underestimate the importance of showcasing your team’s capabilities, cohesion, and ability to learn and adapt. Great investors know how to trust the founders to make the decisions that put the company on the path to success – even if that means sweeping changes along the way.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Founders

It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing your startup journey to others. You might see fellow founders hitting milestones faster, raising more funding, or seemingly having smoother growth trajectories. Remember, every startup journey is unique. Focus on your own progress, celebrate your wins (big or small), and learn from your setbacks. Your path will have its own ups and downs – embrace them as part of your story. Also, founder life is often a lot like envy-scrolling on Instagram: your peers are only showing you themselves in the absolute most positive light; every founder is dealing with their own challenges, doubts, and insecurities, but they will rarely let that seep out in their public image.  

Stay True to Your Strategy

In the fast-paced world of startups, staying true to your strategy can feel like navigating through a storm. External pressures, market trends, and competitive moves can tempt you to stray from your initial vision. While it’s essential to stay agile and responsive to market feedback, anchoring yourself to a clear strategy provides a compass during turbulent times. Trust in your initial insights, validate your assumptions through data and customer feedback, and make informed adjustments without losing sight of your long-term goals. At EMPEQ, because we never lost sight of our core mission of expediting the rate of energy efficient building retrofits, we maintained internal cohesion even through a full business model pivot.

Conclusion

Building a B2B SaaS startup is a rollercoaster ride, filled with unexpected twists and turns. Embracing pivots, understanding the investor mindset, resisting comparison, and staying committed to your strategy are keys to navigating this exhilarating journey. We’re here to share experiences, insights, and real talk to support you on your entrepreneurial path. Stay tuned for more tips, stories, and strategies to help you thrive as a founder in the competitive world of B2B SaaS. Remember, you’re not alone – please feel free to reach out to either of us if we can ever be helpful in your journey.