Lighten Your Load Before You Take Off

Written by Naeem Zafar
Every pilot has to make sure the weight-thrust ratio is correct, or else the runway will end before the plane takes off.  Not a good thing if you want to survive the takeoff.

If the plane is overloaded, a good captain will refuse to take off.  He knows how long the runway is.  He knows that the aircraft must be at the correct weight in order to lift off.

You wouldn’t want to be the passenger if you knew that your plane was over the weight limit, would you?

Well, your startup is no different.  Most entrepreneurs overload their idea by trying to capture too many segments of the market.  Or they create a product with too many features.  Or they have developed a message aimed at too many constituents.  All of these problems are bad news!

You must unload most of your baggage.  Choose one hill to be king of.  Once you have conquered that hill, you can take on the next one.

Find the sliver of target customers who need you most.  Figure out how to get to them and make them loyal enthusiasts.  If you accomplish that goal, your task will be a lot easier.  Once you have won their hearts, you will be able to fine-tune your ideas and look for the next piece of the market pie.

Don’t worry that others will copy you once the cat is out of the bag.  Execution is key, and intimate customer knowledge is something no one can take away from you.  You will be able to expand as you befriend and serve these initial customers.

I have made the mistake of overextending myself many times, spending tens of millions of dollars to learn this valuable lesson.  Don’t make the same mistakes I did!

Stay sharp,

About Naeem Zafar

  • A member of the faculty of the Haas business school at the University of California Berkeley, Naeem teaches Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the MBA program. Naeem is the founder of Concordia Ventures and focuses on educating and advising entrepreneurs on all aspects of starting and running a company. Naeem’s entrepreneurial experience includes working directly with six startups, and he has extensive experience in mentoring and coaching founders and CEOs. Naeem is now the president and CEO of Bitzer Mobile, a company that simplifies enterprise mobility.
  • Until 2007, Naeem was the president and CEO of Pyxis Technology Inc., a company specializing in advanced chip design software for nanometer technology. Naeem has also been president and CEO of two other high tech startups (Silicon Design Systems and Veridicom, a Bell Labs spin-off that invented the silicon fingerprint sensors today found on most laptops). Naeem has held senior marketing and engineering positions at several companies including Quickturn Design Systems that had an IPO in 1993 and grew to $125M in revenues.
  • Naeem holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Brown University (magna cum laude), Rhode Island, and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota.
  • Naeem is a charter member of TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs ).He is also a charter member of OPEN ( ) where he serves as the president.



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