Staying True to Your Mission When Starting Your Company

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Our Mexico City (virtual) and San Francisco Founder Friday speaker, shares how to focus on your vision when starting your company. Sign up for Founder Friday in your city here

By Christine Lemke (Co-founder, AchieveMint)

When I cofounded AchieveMint, a health engagement and behavior change platform, my purpose was personal. For ten years, I had battled strange, inexplicable symptoms such as arthritis, erratic stomach pain and chronic fatigue. I was finally diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in 2005. There's no cure, but I can help mitigate the symptoms by monitoring what I eat and working out.

Each of my co-founders has a similar story, either in relation to themselves or their loved ones. We know how difficult it can be to incorporate healthy habits into your life, but also how important and rewarding doing so can be. Consequently, we are obsessed with helping others enrich their lives through healthy activities. We began with this strong sense of purpose, but our resolve gradually started to erode.

As with most early-stage startups, we at AchieveMint felt pulled in many different directions. We were encouraged to make adjustments in seemingly every area — vision, product, strategy, team, marketing, users and even our name — and in every direction. Partners, members (our users), team and investors often all wanted to hear different things and it was easy to lose sight of where we were going. Even for experienced, serial entrepreneurs, navigating this mission creep was incredibly difficult. Here are some maxims that helped us get back on track.

Getting pulled in many directions is perfectly normal for an early-stage startup

Everyone we talked to had a different opinion. We listened but only acted on the ones we thought had the most potential and fit within our original mission: helping people discover and create daily health habits. We were extremely careful about what we built and who we hired during this period. We decided to launch a product that was fairly minimal and open, like scaffolding, in order to observe what consumer behaviors emerged and what companies approached us with needs. Then we pounced on the opportunities that not only worked, but were in line with what we wanted to create.

Fall in love with a problem, not a solution 

There are many potential solutions to a problem, and many solutions that don't solve any problems. We became hyper-focused on the problem of health engagement and have designed and iterated features that address this problem. We altered and tinkered with our product many times until we discovered what worked. Although it was difficult, we didn't get emotionally attached to our ideas, which allowed us to easily discard solutions that weren't effective. Our focus became our compass.

Have the courage to trust your vision 

Some incredibly smart and experienced people in our sector told us we were wrong. Perhaps we still are. There's a fine line between stupidity and bravery. But sometimes you've done the work, you've seen things others haven't, you've thought about this problem every day and hour, you've spent nights awake thinking and dreaming and perhaps, just this once, you should trust the small voice in your heart.

See what more Christine has to say at Founder Friday in San Francisco today, Sept. 13! She will also be speaking virtually in Mexico City. Register for Founder Friday in your city here.

lemkeAbout the guest blogger: Christine is co-founder of AchieveMint, an online patient engagement system that leverages data analytics to deliver personalized health behavior change recommendations. Previously, she co-founded Sense Networks, and named BusinessWeek Top 25 Most Intriguing Startups. She also co-founded ChannelIQ, a product analytics company, and held roles at Microsoft XBOX and 3iGroup in Paris.