How Early-Stage Founders Can Make Lemonade from Lemons

People don’t like hearing no. Myself included. We have a desired outcome in mind, and when things don’t go that way, it doesn’t feel great. Early-stage founders probably hear no much more than the average person. Investors, customers, potential hires—they’ll say no way more often than they’ll say yes. Founders should be aware that a no isn’t always a bad outcome.

Things at early-stage companies are constantly changing. But trying to figure out what changes to make is hard. You have imperfect information at best and limited resources. Your runway is only so long. You have to figure things out before it ends. This is where those noes can be helpful. Make a point of trying to understand why the answer is no. You’ll uncover insights that will inform the changes you need to make to start hearing yes.

Maybe potential customers are saying no because your product is missing a critical feature. Maybe investors are saying no because they don’t understand how you’ll use the money. Maybe potential hires are saying no because your hiring process is too slow. Now you know what to work on. The sea of things you could work on has shrunk to a manageable list or even a single change.

If you’re an early founder or considering becoming one, remember that no isn’t the end of the world. No is a lemon that you can make lemonade from if you uncover the why behind the no.