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Startup Guide: Lessons from a failed startup

Looking through the wreckage of an old folder, found this post for the really early days of Reboot – the original list of lessons from a failed startup that became the book. Here is the list, with one new addition, five years later.

1) Technology is not a competitive advantage. Focus on the business problem not technological elegance or cool factor.
2) Big customers are iffy. You generally don’t have the bandwidth to support them, work them or close them. Success is built on a collection of small wins, not big hits. Focus on the small wins.
3) Don’t waste time and resources perfecting products when customers are willing to work with imperfect ones. This doesn’t mean that you sell lemons, but that perfection comes over iterations; don’t aim for it on day one.
4) There is no Hero who can pull you out of your current mess. Don’t look for one, don’t dump it on one, you will be disappointed. It will be easier if you work it out yourself or together with your team.
5) Great products are built for wrong markets. Play with it a bit and it will fit.
6) For a small team, top heavy leadership is expensive. It makes a difference but don’t pay too much for it. Once you get bigger you can afford it, till then work with what you have.
7) Balance faith and commitment with reality checks. There is always a good time to lose and pack up. When the time comes for you to pack up, pack up and leave. Don’t take it personally.
8) Look forward towards the future. Not backwards. Experience is a sunk cost.
9) Capital and partners are not free. If you can’t respect them, there is a good chance you will not be able to work with them.
10) Manage the right expectations with employees, customers, family and investors. Be honest, realistic and truthful. Make small promises and deliver on your promises before making bigger ones.
11) Diversification is a four letter word.
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