Counter-intuitive lessons learned from start up life

Working in a start up environment is exciting. When you’re in the thick of things, it is easy to make mistakes. It’s easier to look back and think about how those mistakes seemed like a good idea at the time… Here are a few mistakes I’ve encountered that I thought might be helpful to share.

  1. “We just need some buzz.” Everyone says more eyeballs are always better. Ignore them. If people like what you are doing, they will find you. Do not spend anytime thinking about PR, marketing or *heaven forbid* planning anything viral. The time you spend doing this could be spent on making your product better and that’s time you can never get back.
  2. “It’s groundbreaking! We have to do it because no one else has done it before.” Exactly. You know why no one else has done it before? It is a huge headache and not worth the effort. If you’re looking to make money in the start up world, remember: simple things for stupid people (it’s only offensive ’cause it’s true). 
  3. “We’re going to be so busy, we should hire somebody right now.” Wishful thinking. You never need to hire anyone ahead of time. Until you are turning money away you are so busy, you’ll be just fine. Besides, if you’re turning money away, you’ll actually be able to afford hiring someone. 
  4. “This is such a good opportunity to get our name out there, we should work with them for free.” No, you should not work for free. It never pays off. You, the team you’ve built and your product are valuable. Don’t let people take advantage. Besides, if anyone wants you to do an entire project for them for free, they are probably jerks. Stay away from them. 
  5. “Company culture is the most important thing.” Yeah, people don’t like horrible working conditions. Forget the foosball table, build good shit.