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5 Reasons Why Office Hours Are So Effective

Hsu Ken Ooi
Hsu Ken Ooi
3 min read

At the end of every batch, we ask founders "What was the most valuable part of the program?" The answer is always Office Hours. If you've experienced it, it's obvious why but I wanted to see if I could explain it to people who haven't experienced it.


A common reason startups fail is they work on the wrong things. There’s so many things to work on, founders don’t spend enough time figuring out what they should work on.

I suspect this happens for a few reasons. First, it takes a surprising amount of work to figure out what to prioritize. Second, figuring out what to prioritize doesn’t feel like work in the same way as e-mailing a potential customer, changing the website, etc.

Office Hours helps with this by starting each week with “What’s your biggest growth blocker?” Often, the response is, “I don’t know” so we spend our time trying to find the answer. Working on your biggest growth blocker is almost always the thing you should work on.


Another common reason startups fail is they try to do too many things simultaneously. When a startup spreads itself thin, quality of execution decreases, and the likelihood of failure increases.

Worse still, if a project fails due to poor execution but is perceived as inherently flawed, founders will dismiss a viable opportunity. For a startup, where viable opportunities are rare, false negatives are killer.

I suspect the tendency to do too many things is related to being unable to prioritize effectively. Instead of figuring out which 3 of the 5 things they should work on, they try to do all 5.

Office Hours helps with this by giving founders feedback and a sounding board. It’s surprising how much clearer things can be to someone who’s been a founder but is not emotionally attached to the startup and involved on a daily basis.


One of the first challenges I faced as a founder was the lack of a feedback loop. Without it, I’d find myself making excuses or ignoring when things didn’t go well. It’s like doing poorly on a test. Ideally, you would analyze each wrong answer to understand the mistakes and make a plan for improvement, but I don’t know anyone that actually did that. It’s hard to inspect your own failure.

Office Hours address this by establishing a weekly feedback mechanism for your startup. In the beginning, we work with you to set weekly targets. Each week after that, we ask you to show whether you’re above or below those targets. If you’re above target, we explore why, what you learned about your users and how to build on what’s working. If you’re below target, we discuss the reasons, what you learned about your users, and what changes to make so you will be above target the following week.


Founders are often not as ambitious as they should be. This happens for a few reasons.

First, their ambition constrained by the ambition of those around them. If you meet someone with 10,000 users, that might seem ambitious. If you later meet someone with 10 million users, the 10,000 users doesn’t seem as ambitious anymore.

Second, the fear of failure causes founders to be less ambitious. You are less likely to fail if you aim for 10,000 users than 10 million.

Third, in Southeast Asia, proclaiming ambitious goals is culturally frowned upon. People often think you’re stupid or arrogant.

Office Hours addresses this by having founders work with more experienced founders who are more ambitious and successful than in their existing circles. This is, in large part, why people move to SF.


Office Hours focused on growing your startup, but sometimes, the main blocker is founder morale. In those cases, the camaraderie of other founders, especially experienced founders is invaluable. It reminds you that you're not alone in your struggles, and what you're doing is hard. Some of the most rewarding Office Hours I've had were the founders opening up about struggling, me sharing a personal anecdote about being in a similar situation, having a laugh about it and telling them it'll be fine.

This is one of the reasons why only someone who has been a founder is allowed to be a Visiting Partner. People who haven't been founders will understand these challenges intellectually but because being a founder is such a unique experience, there is a different level of empathy that comes from someone who's been through it themselves.

Apply to Iterative. If you think Office Hours might be helpful to your startup, and you're interested in Iterative, you should apply by EOD tomorrow (Friday, 3 May). I'll be doing Pre-Batch Office Hours with everyone we invest in who applied before that deadline.

Hsu Ken Ooi