30+ valuable lessons I learned from 18 years in startups

Don’t build something you wouldn’t use yourself. The best ideas usually come from solving your own problems Chances are, others have the problem too.

We’d all love to create tech’s “next big thing”, become squillionaires, and have a movie made about our rise to the top.

But let’s wake from that beautiful dream and come back to reality — being a startup is tough! Here’s what I’ve learned so far since I started my first internet business in 1997. Competing on price is a race to the bottom — there will ALWAYS be someone willing to do it cheaper.

Quality and cost go hand-in-hand. You get what you pay for.

There are lots of ideas — but that doesn’t mean all ideas are good ideas. In fact, most ideas are terrible.

Chances are, you’re building a product no one wants.

Don’t look for ideas, focus on problems.

You’re not going to be the next Facebook.

Ideas by themselves have little value — execution is everything.

Just because your last startup was successful, doesn’t mean your next one will be.

All the SEO, A/B testing, growth hacking in the world is wasted if your product sucks.

No one is looking for a solution to a problem they don’t know they have.

Don’t build something you wouldn’t use yourself. The best ideas usually come from solving your own problems Chances are, others have the problem too.

Ditch the non-disclosure agreements and stop being so protective — no one is going to steal your idea, no matter how great you think it is.

Making your product complex is easy, but making it simple requires genius.

Great design is not just about the way your product looks; it’s also about the way it works.

Stop worrying about getting your product perfect for launch. No matter how polished it is, you’ll look back in a year and cringe.

Your target user should be someone who knows they have the problem you’re trying to solve, is getting by on a piecemeal solution, and is actively looking for something better.

An app that sends disappearing pictures is cool. An app that improves people’s lives is cooler.

Your biggest competition is indifference and status-quo.

Overcoming obscurity will be your biggest challenge.

No one cares about you or your product; they care about themselves.

Don’t start a business without first reading The Lean Startup and Start With Why.

Anytime you do anything, ask yourself “will this help us validate the product?”

An MVP (minimum viable product) can be as minimal as finding a buyer for a product you haven’t made yet.

You don’t need to build every possible feature into your product — just enough to get it in people’s hands quickly so you can start learning how they use it (if at all.)

Most apps have too many features.

Early adopters will forgive bugs in your software because they believe in your vision.

People will buy anything Apple makes because it’s Apple. You are not Apple.

Your number of downloads is a vanity metric. A useful metric is the number of people actually using your product.

Once you get an investor, their business model will become your business model.

It’s easier to raise capital when you have to pay customers.

Twitter can help you build an audience QUICKLY.

When writing blog articles, assume that your reader is quite impatient and has other things to do.

Start a business for the right reasons. If you‘re in a startup for fame or fortune, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.

When you hire people, hire A-players. If you find you’ve hired a B-player, let them go, quickly.

A-players want to work with other A-players.

Too many startups are focused on what they do, not why they do it.

Life is short; stop trying to live someone else’s life.

Keep your house in order. Get a reputable accountant and lawyer.

No matter how much money you make, it will never be enough.

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