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  • Writer's pictureLewis Horne

Do stuff: Effectuation for entrepreneurs


I interact with a lot of startup ventures and projects (and investors). Multiple per day from diverse industries and geographies.


There’s one blanket point I want to make to all entrepreneurs here.


The bootstrapping phase shows who really wants it.



Engineers at a startup developing their product


Some take direct actions to achieve the actual aim of the business. Those are the ones building something they really believe in.


While others just assemble some basic vision components (make pitch deck), then focus all their energy on raising funds.


This is shifting too quickly to the causal approach.


That is, trying to get money to do stuff and not doing stuff until you get the money.




The former means doing as much stuff as possible with what you have, with capital raising being just one task among many. Yes, this means there is a lot more stress. But investors can feel that energy, they know who really wants it, and you might be surprised at what you can achieve with the resources you already have nearby (if you look hard and attract well).


The ‘do stuff with what you have’ approach in academic literature is called effectuation, the alternative to causation. Broadly, effectuation is defined as “entrepreneurs creating their future by taking action and making things happen”, while causation processes take a particular effect as given, focusing on acquiring the means to create that effect. (Here's the literature!)



‘Do stuff’ means ‘build stuff’ (effectuation for entrepreneurs)


If you can’t build stuff, find people who can, inspire them to help build your vision, and do whatever you can to support and incentivize them as much as humanly possible along the way while chasing more resources.


But ‘build stuff’ doesn’t just have to mean coding or mechanical engineering. It can mean building a community, an email list, or things that make money. Relationships fit in there, but you can’t just spend your time talking, you need things to start appearing in the world.


Like your product. A rough, dirty, early version that you launch way too early.


I see a lot of people with projects raising money, then a year has past and they are still trying to raise money. Yet, they could have already done ugly launches or many other things to created momentum.


When it comes to raising capital, I lean on the following equation.


  1. Momentum = results + attention (better quality data)

  2. Results + attention = valid share appreciation and investor interest

  3. All of the above = capital moves much closer to your mission and you increase your surface area for serendipity and closing deals.


So in short, prioritize momentum by doing stuff.


You’ll attract more of what you want if you do this.




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