With thousands upon thousands of startups taking place as we speak the most resounding question asked is “how can I make my startup successful?”.  The result is a cascade of advise on what to do and how to do it, some with even a self-indulgent suggestion of their ability to help you reach acclaim.  Unfortunately while advice is abundant the proper question should be about how I can go about making my enterprise fail.  As many that have followed the time worn path of success blueprints they still fail?  For those giving advice its always reverts back to casual and common conditions that relate to market readiness, funding, immature ideas and even too lofty goals set.  In fact the real fact is that the failures were the things we did incorrectly.   To this end, I decided to create a list that reflects the many mistakes made.  Hoping that these will be taken serious, considered and appropriate action being taken.

  • Lack of market evaluation and planning.  Its not that there isn’t room but if you can’t differentiate or show aggressive value additions you will be met with resistance.
  • Too good to be true opportunists.  Yes, there are people lurking to capitalize on your dream.  These may come from a number of sources; investors, partners and even customers.  So beware and protect yourself on the fronts of intellectual property rights (IPR), business relationships and sales opportunities.
  • Marketing Failures.  Choosing the wrong medium (yes, you have to have a social media presence but if you customers are not acquiring from social media sources limit your investment) where your targets are located.  Deciding on where to promote is as crucial as what to promote and to whom.
  • Amateur packaging.  If it looks cheap it is cheap but the expectation remains the same as that of higher priced alternatives.
  • Failure to acknowledge the need for market conversion.  The best ideas have died for the sake of an inability to convert market.
  • Lack of vision beyond the present.  Because of shallow funding we are anxious for sales, funding and partner support.  But you need several alternative sources to pursue in order to create a balanced flow of revenue.
  • Knowing when to move on.  Most startups fail to look beyond wanting to have success.  Know when its right to move on and pass along the opportunity to others (hopefully these will be candidates that acquire your enterprise).  Staying with a success story reduces the overall return on investment unless you can establish success in the first 2 or 3 years.
  • Your profile.  The startup grows from you and your colleagues.  It moves from it being a personal endeavor to one that is professional.  Yet we continue to post and repost and share a individuals and not as newly founded enterprise heads.  As a result, your profile presence may be your liability and not your selling point.  Be mindful of the need to reset focus and know what image you are wishing to set.
  • Commitment.  We are all committed, but at what level?  Is this a part-time endeavor or a full fledged operation?  Do you have a location or is it your kitchen table?   Depending on the cost and the commitment that you are seeking will determine what you need to show your level of having skin in the game.
  • Spending like drunken sailors.  Money burns faster than gasoline.  Money spent must have value earned.  For this reason many investors choose to invest in elements of your business (like product development or market reach) rather than in operating expenses (office, salaries, supplies, etc).  Its the clear separation of overhead vs. value earning capitalized investment.
  • Lifting Alone.  You need to plan for support, you cannot sustain viability and growth without some form of assistance.  We are reluctant in doing so because we view this resource as labor and not as potential partners.  A startup must build a team and you as the innovative head (possibly) need to share in the wealth of the business with those that can and will commit.  Its an investment decision and not one of building size for the sake of size.  You need intellectual collaboration, division of effort, call for specialized talent, and in simple terms time bandwidth.  Without it time will pass, opportunities will be lost, and all for the sake of thinking an ‘alone’ pursuit will bring you wealth and fame.  Enterprises like Microsoft and Facebook, while seen as success stories of individuals was not possible without the involvement of a team that shared the outcome (good or bad).
  • Pitch Failure.   Know who you are talking with and what you want to achieve.  There are three basic groups;  customers, investors and partners.  Each has a need and you as the startup enterprise needs to speak to them in a way that satisfies their needs and is not clouded by excess information.
  • Over come YOUR fears.  As I have said numerous times, where you stand today is a road divided.  You will either succeed or you will fail.  But if you don’t take any step at all you will have failed when you may have had the chance to succeed.  It is important to understand your limitations and your strengths, making sure that these truthful and not simply you desire to have them be yours.  Others need to examine this in a critical and unbiased fashion to give you an idea of where you need to put forth efforts of improvement.
  • Unclear abstract market.  Vague but ambitious targets, not understanding geographic markets from vertical sector markets or the creation of markets (using viral strategies).  You just can’t announce here I am without considering who you are in a practical way.
  • Under utilization of channel partners.  Despite having the ability to create exposure, social media sources have their limitations.  There is nothing more powerful than feet on the ground (refer to Microsoft and their early engagement of Rogers from Altair).  Be selective and ever mindful of success and not another grand experiment gone bad.  Bad press will have dramatic effects on a startup.

In conclusion, these are a few common observations on how startups fail.  Hoping that if you have other reasons that you share them either on this blog or on a social media post.

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