The 13 Startup Survival Rules every entrepreneur should know
If you can’t remember anything you’ve learned, there is one
rule that will save you: understand your users. It’s the users who keep you
alive. A startup helpful to users will not expire, at least not from an outside
event. But it could still kill itself internally.
The Startup Survival Rules
Pick good co-founders. What kills most startups are the startups themselves. Everything starts with finding a bad co-founder. Bad co-founders may be very good people. They also might not do well in a startup for reasons that are not bad by themselves, like going back to school or having a side project. That’s why it is hard to measure at the beginning who will be a good co-founder.
Until you launch, users can’t use you. If users can’t use you, your startup is useless to them. The longer you stay that way, the harder it will be to break the habit. Launch before you get used to not being useful.
Let your idea evolve
Many successful startups changed their ideas fundamentally. PayPal started thinking they would transfer money between Palm Pilots. Do you remember what those are anymore? Exactly. Had they not stayed open to the possibility of needing to change everything, we might have never heard of them.
It’s Better to make a few users happy than many conflicted. If you ask people whether they like your startup, they will most likely say yes. The people are nice. But that means nothing to you. Let them vote with their time and money. If they actually use you it counts. If they say it’s a great idea but don’t use you, you have to worry.
Offer surprisingly good customer service
At the beginning, you can afford to talk with your customers on the phone or in person. Why not? They are the first people who found your product useful. They are like investors, only with their time. Learn from them, and give them the best you have.
You make what you measure. Unless you grow, you are not a startup. Growth, though, is often tricky if you measure the wrong metrics. Figure out what exactly it means for you to grow.
Spend a little
No matter how much funding you have, you are always closer to death than you think. Unless you are profitable. So spend little. Your investors’ money is the money you don’t have.
Get ramen profitable
Even if you have little money coming in, it means someone values your product enough to pay for it. That is the sign that your company might survive. Now it’s just a matter of getting more customers to do the same.
The only reason for the existence of a startup is to serve its users. Funding is a distraction. School is a distraction. Magazine photoshoots are a distraction. These may be useful distractions of course, but if they take the time and attention away from building the product, they become useful but lethal distractions.
Don’t get demoralized
In a startup, nothing will happen until you make it happen. People won’t respond. Customers will try not to pay. Partners won’t come through. Investors will flake. Employees will leave. What can you do? You can’t leave. Just keep trudging through until you find what users need.
Don’t give up
The surest way to make people believe is to keep growing, and if you can’t grow, keep going. The moment you give up, it is really over.
The deal falls through
It may be difficult to believe, but even after investors respond yes, they might still never send you the check. People, even the most sophisticated ones, have buyers remorse, second thoughts, insecurities – in short, they are no different than you, so expect that from them. And keep going despite it.