15 Aug 5 Mistakes Young Startups Should Avoid
And advise from experienced entrepreneurs who used to be young start-up founders.
1. Guarding The “Big Idea”
“How many entrepreneurs’ opening words are about how ‘stealth’ their project is, followed by a 10-page NDA to hear word one? I was totally guilty of this back in the day. For young entrepreneurs, especially non-technical founders like myself, it feels like our ‘big idea’ is all we have, and we want to guard it like a defenseless baby. We also want to believe that no one else out there in the world has thought of our little gem, and if they were to catch wind, everyone will pounce! Ha! First, whatever your idea is, rest assured it’s been thought of before. Secondly, an idea is by no means a business … it’s everything that comes next that makes a business happen. Execution. And no one else will execute the way you do. Third, you’re going to need help and guidance from people who know more and have been there before, so you better get comfortable sharing your ‘big idea.'” — Jeff Jackel, CEO, BuzzMob
2. Losing Focus
“I think many startups have difficulty finding a focus. As an entrepreneur, there’s a lot going on. You have countless decisions to make, and you have to keep moving quickly. Settling on a clear focus — your product, your audience, your strategy — is critical from day one. Of course, as you move forward, you must be willing to adapt. But remember to hold tight to that big idea as you go.” — Alexa von Tobel, Founder & CEO, LearnVest
“One thing I have learned building Grand St. is the value of intense focus. Trying to complete only a few things each week means doing an excellent job on all of them, whereas trying to do the 27 things I want to do usually results in mediocre or incomplete work. The same goes for the product itself — there’s a laundry list of features we want to add, but keeping the experience simple and uncluttered makes us really focus on what our users really want.” — Amanda Peyton, Co-Founder, Grand St.
“Founders of a young company will come up with hundreds of new ideas every day (I know my co-founders and I do). While most of these ideas are sure to be good ones, we’ve learned that we need to be thoughtful and selective about which to move forward with in order not to overwhelm ourselves and our employees. We all have limited time and resources, which is why we need to focus and prioritize.” — Matt Salzberg, Founder and CEO, Blue Apron
“At times we have sat on ideas for months, before testing them and finding out that they are runaway successes. At other times, we have exhausted ourselves trying out 100 different things, when none of them work. I watched a great video with Barbara Corcoran, called “How to get more customers, step 1.” What she describes is that many businesses, when they are looking for more customers, will try 100 different things, when they already have one thing that isworking. As she puts it, this strategy leads to very few new customers and lots of exhaustion. She recommends that instead, founders look at what has been working and double or triple their efforts there.” — Adda Birnir, Co-Founder, Skillcrush
3. Assuming Virality
“A lot of new founders think, ‘If I build it, they will come.’ I have news for you: They’re not coming and you’re not going to ‘go viral.’ Services don’t spontaneously go viral. High virality is almost always the product of early and deliberate product design decisions. Spend some serious time thinking about how and why people are going to discover and share what you’re building.” —Jeremy Fisher, CEO, Days and Wander
“I think a lot of young startups assume that fundraising is not only a necessary component of running a business but an important marker of success. We spent six months fundraising only to walk away once we had a term sheet in hand because we realized we were making enough money to sustain and grow the business on our own terms. Ultimately that felt like a much bigger marker of success than closing a round. If your business makes money, you may well be better off not fundraising, and in doing so, retain control and ownership of your business. And if your business doesn’t make money (or have a solid plan as to how it will), then perhaps there are some bigger issues to tackle before you start pitching investors.” — Claire Mazur, Co-Founder,Of a Kind
“Many young entrepreneurs think that raising VC money is a measure of success. There is a lot of money chasing bad ideas. The only thing that matters is building a viable, growing and profitable business.” — Brian Garrett, Co-Founder, StyleSaint and Venture Capitalist
5. Chasing Investors Instead of Befriending Investees
“A common mistake startups make in trying to meet investors is, counterintuitively, focusing too much on networking with actual investors. The best way to get a meeting with a VC is not by incessantly pursuing him or her, but rather by getting an intro from a founder that the VC has already invested in. Befriend funded entrepreneurs. Every VC will tell you that they will take meetings with 100% of the companies that their existing portfolio founders recommend. Don’t spend all your energy emailing and LinkedIn-ing VCs; instead, get to know founders who have been funded and win them over because their stamp of approval is one of the most valuable data points for an investor.” — Sam Teller, Managing Director, Launchpad LA
BY LAUREN DRELL (Mashable.com)