17 Pithy Insights For Startup Founders

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17 Pithy Insights For Startup Founders

 


Regular readers of this blog will know by now that brevity is usually not one of my talents.  So, I thought I’d make an attempt at capturing a series of small entrepreneurial “sound bites”.  The idea is to have a short thought or pithy lesson from my 12+ years of working with startups.  I’m hoping that the value/word ratio is reasonably high.  Apologies if some of these sound trite, but I couldn’t avoid it

17 Pithy Insights For Startup Founders
 
  1. Seek transparency and understanding with your partners early.  Issues get harder as time passes

  1. Startup founders work long hours for a reason.  There’s more work than there are people.  If you’re seeking balance, seek it elsewhere.

  1. Bad customers will drain you of passion.  Really bad customers will drain you of both passion and profits.  Unfortunately, most bad customers will degenerate into really bad customers if you don’t do something about it.
  1. If you’re changing direction often, worry a little.  If you’re changing people often, worry a lot.
  1. It’s lonely at the top, but even lonelier at the bottom.  In the early days of a startup, hardly anyone wants to talk to you (except some desperate vendors).
  1. Eventually, your product will need to work and do something useful.  No amount of marketing or strategy will get you around this.
  1. At the end of each day, ask yourself:  “Did the product get better for customers today?”.  If you don’t have a good answer, stay up until you do.
  1. Until you are profitable, time is working against you.  Once you are profitable, time is on your side.
  1. Learn to take calculated risks.  The market rarely rewards safe bets.
  1. To improve the quality of your output, improve the quality if your inputs.  Read, converse and connect with the right people.

  1. Force yourself to write, as it will force you to think.  
  1. At least once every year or so, your startup will almost die.
  1. The problem you solve should be ugly.  The solution you build should be beautiful.
  1.  Even the most successful startup ideas had 100 reasons not to pursue them.  There is no perfect idea.
  1.  If the pain doesn’t kill you, it just hurts a lot.
  1.  You choose your destiny, because you choose your team.  
  1.  Be who you are.  Do what you love.  Join people you like.   


Hope you enjoyed them.  Feel free to share your own in the comments.  Would love to hear them.

If there are particular ones that resonate with you, and you’d like to read more, leave a comment.  There’s a potential article behind each of them.

 

Posted by on Thu, Jul 27, 2006

COMMENTS

I like point 5 most.

"It’s lonely at the top, but even lonelier at the bottom"

and point 16

" You choose your destiny, because you choose your team. "

This point makes it clear that whatever step you take, you HAVE A CHOICE.

Nice one. Thanks

posted on Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 10:14 AM by yeksoon


These are great. I'd add Sth Godin's to the list :"Being safe is risky, and being risky is safe"

posted on Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 10:43 AM by Rob Mason


Great list, although as non-native English speaker I have to look up the defintion of pithy!

posted on Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 11:07 AM by


Rob: Well said. I wish I had half the wisdom and pithiness of Mr. Godin.

posted on Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 11:08 AM by


i have been reading many of your posts.
I find my thoughts getting matched with yours. So, It hasn't been hard to accept others that make it in your well written posts.


posted on Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 11:32 AM by YV


It’s lonely at the top, but even lonelier at the bottom"

I knew it "the way on top is lonely"

and there is another one.
"everythings look like a big mistake until something right comes out of it"

posted on Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 11:35 AM by Yiannis Volos (YV)


Another one, though I can't say it in a pithy way.
Avoid big-company types. They don't get that your funding is finite and that if you don't make something someone will buy, everyone will be out of a job.

posted on Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 12:19 PM by Em


You can't have "half the wisdom". Either you have or you don't, big boy!

posted on Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 1:27 PM by Socrates


A briefer opening would be:

"I have no talent for brevity, but here are some pithy lessons I learned from 12 years of working with startups."

posted on Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 3:19 PM by waltkania


Good ones, Dharmesh...

posted on Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 3:30 PM by Bhalligan


"The problem you solve should be ugly. The solution you build should be beautiful." Best one - definite mantra material.

posted on Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 4:02 PM by Sergio


I liked this one very much as I am facing this problem right now ....
1. Even the most successful startup ideas had 100 reasons not to pursue them. There is no perfect idea.

I have to check if my idea is perfect...

And this one tells me not to worry if I ever be in a situation where nothing is working in right direction..

2. At least once every year or so, your startup will almost die.


I read this somewhere and liked it:
CQ + PQ > IQ
Curiosity Quotient + Passion Quotient > Intelligence Quotient

And one more:
Believe in what you are doing else don't do it.

posted on Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 6:55 PM by Vij


This is a great post, with some great information. I am going to print this and use this to guide myself as I get closer to my launch.

posted on Friday, July 28, 2006 at 8:50 AM by Nick Gavronsky


"8. Until you are profitable, time is working against you. Once you are profitable, time is on your side."

I always thought it was more like this:
"Until you are profitable, time is working against you. Once you are profitable, time is working against you."

posted on Friday, July 28, 2006 at 4:43 PM by Scott


Like another commenter said #5 seems to be one that we can all relate to.

posted on Friday, July 28, 2006 at 6:35 PM by Granville Barnett


Breathe, sleep when you can, eat well...eat light, stretch your imagination, your limits, and your body...and if you must work for someone else make certain it melds with your personal intentions. I like #9, and will add this...even if you lose the bet you learn something for the next go round!

posted on Friday, July 28, 2006 at 8:08 PM by kristine


#7 - hands down. But they're all good. How's about a 17-part series??

posted on Friday, July 28, 2006 at 9:25 PM by ronpih


I can't relate to #5 at all.

I'd like to add #18: When your Daddy has the Dollars, everything is easier.

posted on Friday, July 28, 2006 at 10:38 PM by Dick Devos's Head


type:
If you’re changing direction ften
O is missing in ' ften

posted on Saturday, July 29, 2006 at 10:01 PM by Clay Nichols


An old one and not very original (as it came from my dad):

If you did not face 4 customers' complaints and solve their problem, either you are out of the market or aren't working hard enough.

posted on Monday, July 31, 2006 at 6:52 PM by John McGinnis


#10 "To improve the quality of your output, improve the quality if your inputs. Read, converse and connect with the right people." I see this as an extension of the part in #6 where the "product will need to work and do something useful."

I interpret "work" in #6 as "be usable" and to ensure a product is usable in the hands that matter the most (the user's). It takes quality methods - such as user-centered design and usability testing to get quality inputs. 10 & 6 are my favorite! Do you have more posts coming in related areas?

Great list!

posted on Monday, July 31, 2006 at 7:24 PM by Eric P


I love point no 17.

"Be who you are. do what you love.join people you like"

Exactly this will decide the fate your decision rather than your startup.

posted on Tuesday, August 01, 2006 at 12:47 AM by Gopal Balaji


I like no.11. often i force myself to write down what i was thinking and encourage my teammates to do so. If you can not write download it clearly, you must be not clear at it at all.

posted on Tuesday, August 01, 2006 at 2:28 AM by Richard


Made a good reading...

posted on Thursday, August 03, 2006 at 10:04 AM by John Bosco


point 6 is one of the best and which i "feel" hardly cared about by many.

posted on Friday, August 04, 2006 at 1:39 AM by Vijaykrishna Ballary


Dharmesh,
Can you elaborate on #8? I get the first part, but why is time on your side once you achieve profitability? Seems like it is no longer working against you, but there are still competitive pressures, liquidity pressures, etc. Thanks!

Until you are profitable, time is working against you. Once you are profitable, time is on your side.

posted on Saturday, September 30, 2006 at 12:25 PM by Andrew


Well I may as well comment on this one as well...

#7 is one of the best principles for startups I've heard in a long time. I've printed it off in big font and taped it above my desk. Great post.

posted on Monday, October 02, 2006 at 1:46 AM by Bill DAlessandro


Congratulations, you made it in the top list of lists. Please take a look here: http://uberlogging.blogspot.com/2006/10/top-list-of-top-lists.html

posted on Tuesday, October 24, 2006 at 6:51 AM by enq


I would love to hear your opinions on how startups should structure their marketing. A general marketing template that would be an optimal way to apply marketing. Especially towards a startup with 3 or 4 employees and maybe $5k a year in marketing budget. By showing how to have the highest impact under extreme constrains, you can show the best ROI.

Or do a marketing equivalent of this blog which reviews Startup's entire business.
http://www.startup-review.com/blog/
You could do the same with the details of how they spent their marketing effort and what worked for each different business model. An important aspect is how much of their companies resources were spent on each area: people/time/money.

I'd love to hear your insights.

posted on Saturday, January 13, 2007 at 10:38 AM by Bryan Starbuck


I like #9 it's tough to make decisions with a large risk but you don't get to the top by playing it safe. Bookmarked!

posted on Thursday, June 07, 2007 at 2:57 AM by Sacramento Printing guy


I would tend to disagree with the last one. While you have to enjoy the people you spend so much time with (well captured in #16), you should try to find people that complement you rather than the usual yeasayers. Otherwise a great list of useful wisdom. Bravo!

posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 at 12:35 PM by Sascha


I think this company will be able to help you out.I think this is the best printing company

posted on Wednesday, August 15, 2007 at 12:18 PM by Rick


here's some more from the trenches,....

- hire smart, hire often; fire often, fire offsite.

- be wary of VP's bearing methodologies

- be wary of VC's bearing VP's

- there are 17575 TLA's remaining, choose one.

- be what you are. stay what you were


posted on Saturday, September 08, 2007 at 11:13 PM by tinnbinary


>>will add this...even if you lose
>> the bet you learn something for the next go round!

of financing!!!

posted on Saturday, September 08, 2007 at 11:18 PM by ralphwaldo


Speaking on seo traffic, do not consider redzee as a source of viable click through. We did a campaign with them and all the traffic never went past the first page. I think they are doing some shady stuff. We own a printing company, AREA Printing & Design http://www.areaprinting.com and we have instant online chat, none of the clicks ever requested a chat session. It was a waste of money.
printing

posted on Tuesday, September 25, 2007 at 10:17 AM by Neal Sumlin


Thank you very much! This is a very helpful piece of blog entry! Paddy Tan BAK2u.com

posted on Thursday, November 22, 2007 at 1:18 PM by Paddy Tan


I am a cofounder of a startup and I wish I had read these comments prior to a lot of commitments I have made. I have the passion and dedication but realised a bit too late that my partner is not as sincere.

posted on Monday, January 28, 2008 at 2:43 PM by AB


I think our China printing company will be able to help you out.
www.printedinchinaonline.com
you can contact me, I will give you 10% OFF for first order

posted on Wednesday, March 12, 2008 at 7:47 AM by roger


"The problem you solve should be ugly. The solution you build should be beautiful." 
 
What problem did Twitter solve? Nintendo? I don't think you need to be looking for a problem to solve to create a good or awesome business! Creating tech that is fun and brings us closer as the two companies mentioned are worth pursuing too! I managed fine without either company, but now can't imagine life without their product or services.

posted on Sunday, June 29, 2008 at 6:22 PM by Ryan Spahn


point 3 contradicts your experiences with rug dealers from Istanbul. Reality is - it is a human judgement we take

posted on Tuesday, November 11, 2008 at 12:31 AM by Tarun


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posted on Saturday, August 15, 2009 at 9:13 PM by 4mmofans


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