10 Ways to Fail (and Succeed) in a Tech Startup

The first thing I’ll say is that I have had both a failed startup (Geeklist) and a successful one (Webjunto). After my failed attempt at the start-up world, I became highly addicted to everything startup and everything tech. The industry, the passion, the people, and the glamor (alright, maybe we’re not there yet).

However; what I love most about the industry is the break-neck pace of learning. Quite frankly, they don’t teach this sh** in school.

I have two roles I’m writing to you from. One as a software engineer that has worked both in Corporate and Startup life, and the other as a business owner and startup consultant who has worked with over 20 start-ups in the past 2 years.

I attribute much of my success to being taught to think like an engineer (Thanks, Drexel), but also to my friends and colleagues who have shared their experiences with me. Now, it’s my turn to start sharing my experiences with you. Listen Closely.

Audience Listens at Startup School — ( by Robert Scoble )

5 Ways to Succeed — From a Business Point of View

  1. Choose what to spend your time on.
    I can’t emphasis this enough. If you have funding, hire someone to do your design and development. If you do not, build a great team and designate responsibilities. Someone needs to focus on sales — that someone most likely needs to be you.
  2. Find a co-founder.
    You’re going to have a great idea. You’re also going to have really, really shitty ones. If you don’t find an equal and opposite partner, you won’t find anyone to save you from the #fail moments.
  3. Be passionate in the beginning, but then be wise. 
    Passion is what will sell your business to your team, your friends, and your investors. Wisdom is what will keep the business going. Find both.
  4. Listen to your users. Do NOT listen to friends and family surveys
    Friends are an awesome support network, and for advice and moral support there is no-one better. But your friends are NOT always your target users. Find your target demographic that has absolutely no love for you. If they use your product naturally, you just hit a win.
  5. Do not pay users “Prizes” to use your product.
    A) You’re wasting budget on ‘prizes’ that could be used to enhance or pivot your business
    B) The user will only use the product for as long as you are paying them
    C) You’ll run out of money quickly
  6. Be ready to pivot. And I mean quickly. If you see your users doing something unexpected, flow with them. **bonus #6 😀

“life is a river always flowing. do not hold onto things. work hard.”

― Gautama Buddha

5 Ways to Succeed — From a Technology (CTO) Point of View

  1. Do not spend your entire budget on a hot-shot CTO. 
    There are plenty. Put your focus evenly on Design, User Experience, and Development. You need all 3 to be successful.
  2. Identify where your market is. 
    Mobile — Build Cross Platform (Hybrid). Going native automatically cuts out half your market unless you pay twice as much. And guess what? That 2x cost factor doesn’t go away 😀 Hybrid allows you to make crucial decisions quickly and deploy to both iOS, and Android (Unless you are developing a video game or other graphic intensive app… then definitely go Native)
    Web — All browsers were not created equally. Choose your battles.
  3. Do NOT re-create the wheel
    Need to accept payments? Use Stripe.com
    Need a database? Use Parse.com
    Want a chatroom? There’s Quickblox.com
    Everything has been done before. You are just doing it in a unique way. Focus on the uniqueness of your application, and let these companies do the heavy lifting. You do NOT want to build a custom solution that is not your main product.
  4. Have equal communication between your Designers and Developers.
    A Designer may know what looks better; whereas a Developer will tell you what’s easier to build. A middle ground is often best here.
  5. If you hire a Design & Dev shop (yes, like ours) remember — You get what you pay for.
    Find a design & development company that values themselves, not you. Ignore the shops that raise their prices just because you raised money. And for the love of god, be careful if you outsource. I haven’t heard a good story yet.

Most Importantly,

Focus on building an amazing network of passionate, skilled individuals in your community. Develop friendships and relationships with those around you who are also striking out for success.

If you build your community together, you will have a foundation that will grow for years to come.

Concluding Remarks

It has been my pleasure writing this to you, and I wish everyone the best on their startup endeavors. Listen to the advice above and to that given by others who have done it before. If you have any questions, disagreements, or just general conversation, please reach me @jedihacks on twitter.

Best Regards,

~Jedi Weller