Startup Tips for the New Entrepreneur


In working with start- ups, I have seen just about everything, from unexpected victories to painful losses, magnificent pivots to total strikeouts. Consumer behaviors and market trends change like the wind. The benchmarks investors look for are always shifting. The breakneck pace of technology carries a few start ups to victory, countless others to defeat. The world of start-ups is wacky, wild and wonderfully unpredictable.

Given this, the newest entrepreneurs I work with—those taking the plunge for the first time—want advice on avoiding pitfalls and finding success. Sure, my partners and I at Betaspring (a start-up accelerator) and at Founders League (a support and co-working community) offer advice on technology, team and customer traction. More often, we try to hammer home the lessons that, on the surface, seem simple but reflect the discipline and courage it takes to bring an idea to life. These are usually the hardest lessons to learn.

Stay on Track

For start-ups, wandering can be good. Or, it can kill you. Founders who take exploring “tangential opportunities” to the extreme face two risks: tangents suck up resources and the business dies, or sideline ideas become an excuse for not working on the hard problems that truly matter. Founders need to be nimble and ready to seize unexpected opportunities…but successful ventures know how to pick a dot on the horizon and keep aimed at getting there. If start- ups had autopsies, “distraction” would be a leading cause of death!

Take Advice, Leave Advice

A good start-up community is a huge warehouse of advice, with each aisle and shelf loaded with insights and ideas. Founders must learn to walk these aisles and decide what to take and what to leave. The winning equation isn’t getting good advice; it’s getting good advice at the right time…and knowing how to implement. Creating strategies for managing the inflow of feedback and ideas is paramount to achieving balance between over- and under-reacting. Literally, this means having a strategy, as an individual and as a team, for tracking advice and ideas, evaluating how and when to act, and developing a protocol for decision making.

Grow Up, Fast

Time is precious, often more so than cash. For start-ups, every minute wasted without making progress is one minute closer that a company is to death. Nothing has killed more start-ups than running out of time. Founders can “Google their way to victory” by searching for information, rather than toiling away in ignorance. Leaders are made, not born.

So, if you fall down, get up. If you have an argument, resolve it. If your product or business model is knotted in a twist, straighten it out. And if you are unsure how to solve a problem or resolve an issue, do not delay in reaching out for help. If you think you are saving face by hiding your problems, there’s a good chance your venture will go down in flames.

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