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Starting Your Own Company? Obsess Over These 3 Things

Via LinkedIn : In 2009, I left a stable, comfortable job at a big company to found a startup, Hearsay Social. We’ve grown quite a bit since then — we now have over 100,000 paying subscribers in 19 countries around the world and count seven of the top 10 financial services firms as happy customers. Our journey certainly has not been easy. I have learned many valuable lessons along the way, three of which I’ll share with you here:

Know your customers’ business inside and out

Most companies boast that they value their customers above all else, but do you really know your customer — their top priorities, fears, obstacles, and success metrics? Until and unless you do, it’s hard to deliver transformational change. I’m proud of our team at Hearsay Social for learning everything about the financial services industry so that they can challenge our customers with new ideas. Obsess over your customer from Day One, and the rest will work itself out.

It’s not failure; it’s data

Soon after starting Hearsay, I quickly learned my perfectionist tendencies were counterproductive in a startup environment, where “done is almost always better than perfect.” My co-founder Steve has taught me to “make better mistakes tomorrow” and that mistakes aren’t failures so much as they are data regarding what works versus what doesn’t.


One of our first investors and board members, Thomas Layton, advised us early on that “the hardest part about startups isn’t deciding what to do; it’s deciding what not to do.” His advice could not ring truer. At every turn, there are countless opportunities and pivots you will be tempted to pursue. Try to do them all, and it will be death by a thousand cuts. The single biggest lesson I have learned over the last six years is the importance of focus — continual prioritization and reprioritization, staying disciplined, and learning to say no.

Clara Shih

CEO & Co-founder of Hearsay Social

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