When you are building a technology startup, one of the first choices you make even before you get started is the size of your ambition. Most entrepreneurs dont think about it, so it tends to be an unstated but large impact choice.
If you get inspired by another entrepreneur, such as Sachin Bansal of Flipkart or Drew Houston of Dropbox, then you are likely to think in terms of a large market-changing company. If you find inspiration instead, in a wrong that needs to be righted then you are more likely to build a purpose-driven company. Finally if you think in terms of targeting a large market and are interested in being a meaningful player, then you going to end up doing that but only smaller.
What I have found from my experience is that entrepreneurs that start with the intent of solving a small problem, but in a large market have a much higher chance of creating a large company. Which is very counter intuitive.
This is dramatically different than what most investors have been looking for and what most entrepreneurs to be true as well.
“Focus on becoming big”, we are told. “Go big or go home”, is another term bandied around.
What I have noticed is also that having a large ambition but wearing that on your sleeve up front tends to distract most entrepreneurs.
The single biggest indicator of increasing ambition, unsurprisingly is confidence from achievement.
Which means, the small goals you set for your self and overachieve, the more size of your ambition becomes.
It becomes a self perpetuating virtuous cycle of delivering on your smaller milestones and gaining confidence from them.
So what are the other items that determine the size of your ambition?
The obvious one is market. Larger the market, the more ambitious you become.
The next one seems to be time together with your team. The more your team has worked together, got some wins together and more the battles you have fought, the bigger your ambition gets.
One proxy indicator seems to be amount of money raised, but that’s usually not a signal for anything other than the artificial pressure on the founders to return the money that investors have poured into the company.
So, if you are ever in doubt about how big you should become, I’d say aim higher. Much, much higher, but execute towards a smaller goal faster to let your ambition grow.