Founders often hurt their own best interests

Founders at the beginning of a path

photo credit: SteveD on Flickr; license Creative Commons

Founders. Chances are that if you’re reading this, you are one.

I’ve been part of the group of founders of 4 startups. 1 was acqhired. 1 exited via a tech licensing buyout. 1 burned through €18M in venture capital. 1 is ongoing. Trust me when I tell you – being one of the founders is difficult.

There was a great post from Jon Evans on TechCrunch on Ten Ways Founders Sabotage Themselves.

Some of these are just common sense. Others aren’t immediately obvious. Let’s go through them, with some commentary from me.

1. Premature Scaling Is The Root Of All Evil

In case you’re not familiar with the term, premature scaling means overdoing something before its time. That can mean, for instance, over-optimizing your technical architecture before you really need to scale; or hiring salespeople before your product is sellable; or spending too much on marketing before you understand the profile of customers you want to attract. This is less obvious to those who haven’t done startups before, because this thought:

If only I fix this one little thing, then my business will take off.

is so, so attractive. Trust me, it’s rarely true.

2. Technical Debt Will Kill You

This is the counter-point to the first point. Sometimes, non-technical founders can get a company to a certain point. That’s great. One often unforeseen outcome, though, is that the founders want to stay in control of the technology even when they are past their technical level of expertise. That’s where “technical debt” comes in.

3. Google Doesn’t Care

So true – unless you’re curing cancer (and I mean really curing cancer, not just trying or hoping to cure cancer), everyone else is too busy or too ethical to steal your idea. The same goes for Entiviti – we work with startups in many fields. We even work with a couple companies that could be seen as competitive to each other. We don’t care. We have our own work to do, for our clients, and we aren’t going to steal your idea. It’s not our business.

4. You Are Not A Platform

Unless you have 100M+ users or 10,000+ businesses. Then you can try.

5. Stop Trying To Make Viral Happen

I have less to say here. Entiviti doesn’t work in consumer web, where viral matters.

6. Have A Map Of The Valley Of Despair

I disagree with this one, especially for first-time founders. If you’re a startup veteran, then yeah, you need to understand that things inevitably go through a bad cycle at some point. I do, however, agree with this follow-up piece of advice:

Dear clients: know your market, and have a marketing plan other than “launch and go viral”

Next point:

7. Stop Trying To Be The NSA

The point here is not to over-invest in your analytics. Counter-point: don’t ignore data that you easily have, like monthly revenue or sign-ups.

8. Stop Managing By Crisis

This is actually one of the most relevant and important things in the whole piece. Actually, the biggest challenge in running a startup is managing your own emotions through the startup roller coaster you are about to embark on.

Founders are setting off on a rocky path. The path will go in unknown directions. Be ready to walk and run harder, faster and longer than you ever have before. The outcome will be worth it, no matter what.

There are 2 other points that I won’t re-hash here. Click over and read the article.

Posted in founders, startups

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