Start-up Commandments

Todd posted this on his Facebook group (Wannabe Entrepreneurs) so I thought I’d include it here. There’s some interesting points to this, a lot of what I’ve already learned the hard way.

25 Startup Commandments
1. Your idea isn’t new. Pick an idea; at least 50 other people have thought of it. Get over your stunning brilliance and realize that execution matters more.2. Stealth startups suck. You’re not working on the Manhattan Project, Einstein. Get something out as quickly as possible and promote the hell out of it.

3. If you don’t have scaling problems, you’re not growing fast enough.

4. If you’re successful, people will try to take advantage of you. Hope that you’re in that position, and hope that you’re smart enough to not fall for it.

5. People will tell you they know more than you do. If that’s really the case, you shouldn’t be doing your startup.

6. Your competition will inflate their numbers. Take any startup traffic number and slash it in half. At least.

7. Perfection is the enemy of good enough. Leonardo could paint the Mona Lisa only once. You, Bob Ross, can push a bug release every 5 minutes because you were at least smart enough to do a web app.

8. The size of your startup is not a reflection of your manhood. More employees does not make you more of a man (or woman as the case may be).

9. You don’t need business development people. If you’re successful, companies will come to you. The deals will still be distractions and not worth doing, but at least you’re not spending any effort trying to get them.

10. You have to be wrong in the head to start a company. But we have all the fun.

11. Starting a company will teach you what it’s like to be a manic depressive. They, at least, can take medication.

12. Your startup isn’t succeeding? You have two options: go home with your tail between your legs or do something about it. What’s it going to be?

13. If you don’t pay attention to your competition, they will turn out to be geniuses and will crush you. If you do pay attention to them, they will turn out to be idiots and you will have wasted your time. Which would you prefer?

14. Startups are not a democracy. Want a democracy? Go run for class president, Bueller.

15. You’re doing a web app, right? This isn’t the 1980s. Your crummy, half-assed web app will still be more successful than your competitor’s most polished software application.

16. You will have at least one catastrophe every three months.

17. Outsource effectively, or be effectively outsourced.

18. Do you thrive on stress and ambiguity? You’d better.

19. The best way to get outside funding is to be successful already. Stupid but true. But you, cheapskate, don’t need money, right?

20. People will think your idea sucks. They’re even probably right. The only way to prove them wrong is to succeed.

21. A startup will require your complete attention and devotion. Thought your first love in High School was clingy? You can’t take out a restraining order on your startup.

22. Being an entrepreneur requires a healthy amount of ignorance. Note I did not say stupidity.

23. Your software sucks. So what. Everyone else’s does also, and re-architecting is the kiss of death for a startup. Startups are no place for architecture astronauts.

24. You do have a public API, right?

25. Abject Terror. Overwhelming Joy. Monstrous Greed. Embrace and harness these emotions you must.

One Reply to “Start-up Commandments

  1. My response on Wannabe Entrepreneurs:

    Great list, Todd. Since starting era//404, I’ve run into a lot of these and dealt with them the hard way. I’ve found that the tenet for an entrepreneur to live by must include only two things: 1) Take risks, 2) Empower people.

    Obviously, if you’re running a start-up, you’ve already learned to take risks. But you should keep this in mind moving forward with your day-to-day business and not forget that this ambition is what got you to where you are. Taking risks is mentioned a number of times in these commandments, in one form or another.

    More importantly, your main job with the start-up is to be a visionary and your core competencies fall second. I went to school for design and absolutely love it. But 75% of the work I’m doing nowadays is production, client, vendor and sub-contractor management. Not to mention that my childhood dreams of becoming a fireman came true, in an odd way, as a lot of why I do is put out fires.

    That being said, I’ve also learned that I can’t do everything (nor do I want to). Releasing control is probably similar to a parent’s dilemma when dropping of kids at daycare for the first time. In order for me to continue being the visionary for the company, I found I needed people with specific skillsets to handle the things that would distract me from growing my business: accounting, legal work, specialized labor, etc. Empowering people that are responsible and talented enables you to focus on your own skillset, grow your business and profit by reselling.

    Over all, if I had to offer advice, it would be what Churchill said in a speech to his alma mater in 1941:

    “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

    The enemy, by the way, is failure.

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