By Guest Contributor
Startups Are Not A Chess Game

***This Post Originally Appeared on Brinking authored by Spark Capital Partner Nabeel Hyatt****

One of the really hard things to do as an entrepreneur is to not try and solve for too many problems at once.  I’ve found it is one of the first things I end up talking to early stage entrepreneurs about (twice today, actually). And something I struggle with myself.

We like to think strategically: “what if we had that many customers?” “how is this going to scale?” “how would we deal with that competitor if they did this?” This is exacerbated because we spend more time thinking about our business than anyone else. This is made worse because every time we talk to some investor or entrepreneur they ask MORE questions.

We end up playing out options like a chess game and try to optimize for the whole. This, inevitably, means you psych yourself out and get defocused.

At Conduit Labs, we were so obsessed about whether Facebook would own our customer, or control of our experience down the road that it took us forever to move to Facebook.  We were thinking strategically, trying to stay two steps ahead, when the #1 question to answer was, “how will you grow users.” The answer, unequivocally, was Facebook and everything else was just over thinking the problem.

You can’t answer all your questions simultaneously, as satisfying as it can be to try and let your brain do it. In early stage startups there is simply too much optionality.

How can you help control this?

Start by trying to list out all the questions they your business is trying to answer right now. ie “Will people want to keep using my service?” “Do want green or blue on the homepage?” “Will they pay?” “How do we protect if google/microsoft/zynga/facebook come at us?” It’s fine to have a really long list, it could take you years to get to all of them.

Then, the key thing is to get ruthless about which of these questions you are trying to answer now, and which you are pushing off.

If done well, you’ll find your team suddenly knows what to do (“I don’t care about CPA optimization right now, just get me a small enough sample of users to prove if it works!”) and it’s a great way to focus the board as well (“Very good point, we’ll solve for that after we’ve finished answering how to make curation better.”).

Try picking just one thing. Try making sure you will knock out of the park in the next 1, 2, or 3 months. It’s incredibly hard. But I think we all intuitively know it virtually never “all comes together” — it happens by simply, clearly, solving things one move at a time.