Seven classic start-up founder mistakes

(c)jakeandlindsey sherbert


Seven classic startup founder mistakes and how to avoid them

I thought this talk had fantastic cross learning embedded in it for how to build teams and how to advance ideas.

This is a talk by Kathryn Minshew who founded a company called “The Muse” to help people find their passions and help companies market their businesses more effectively.  I found her incredibly articulate and persuasive about her business failures and subsequent learnings.

Her seven:

1)  Product/market fit:  “Your college roommate’s approval does not mean that you have a market for this product.”  Bottom line, get in front of people who don’t know you or like you to see if your idea will fly.

2) Believing that any founder will do:  Think carefully about who you partner with.  Think about how comfortable everyone is with the best and worst case scenarios of the future of your business and most importantly, do you agree on what to do in these scenarios (you run out of money etc.).

3) Perfect versus done – do you know when to stop polishing in the corner?: Think about simplifying and putting a product out there that shows the essence of what you what to do, to see the feedback.  “An ugly baby is better than no baby at all.”

4) Productive versus impactful: Everyone feels good about clearing their inbox or having meetings but this isn’t necessarily impactful behaviour.  Would be better to ask, is this the problem we should be solving today?

5) How to create velocity:  Forget the mantra, “if you build it they will come” – actually they won’t.  It is hard to start the engine of customer acquisition but here are some suggestions beyond the obvious:  have contests to jumpstart social media, blogging including giving the content away for free (she gave hers to Forbes).  Doesn’t recommend advertising because may mask the problem that there isn’t a huge user base.  Write op eds.  Ask for permission to write a guest post.  Tie what you are doing to macro trends.  Think about speaking about yourself and the process of starting the company – it may be more interesting than the product at the start.

6) How to find good people (and convince them to take much less money than they would otherwise): beyond mining your own own networks, think about lurking on twitter and other sites to find people whose work you admire reach out to them.  Hiring is no longer what you are offering money-wise.  More and more people are driven by the work you are doing, atmosphere, who you are working with.  Interview carefully:  Specifically, test fit by asking what are you excited about and what do you sees yourself doing a day-to-day basis?

7) Don’t believe the hype: Continue to reality test ideas even after early successes.


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