COPING WITH FAILURE

What Entrepreneurs Wish They'd Known Before Their First Startup

Regrets? These founders have had a few, but they're grateful for all the hard lessons.
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Some people live to regret staying in a job too long or not spending enough time with loved ones. But the decisions entrepreneurs regret tend to be ones that cost them their company, or their well-being. 

In a recent thread on Reddit's /r/Startups section, a user named josephwesley asked commenters to share what they wished they'd known before their first startup. The answers were insightful and brutally honest. One example: "Never take advice from anyone who hasn't done or isn't doing what you want to accomplish," warned gretzky486. Read on for more of their wisdom: 

On Taking Advice 

"I think it's better to evaluate the advice before accepting it blindly (whether or not it is coming from someone who has done something or otherwise)," said football_wizard in response to gretzky486's comment. "People who have not worked in your field can provide amazing feedback." On the other hand, asking too many people for input could become self-defeating, leaving founders in decision paralysis. "Sometimes you just have to go with your gut," said munkianis. 

The commenters also agreed that having an open mind was key if you wanted feedback on how to improve. You've got to "be willing to accept criticism, both constructive and otherwise," said kyndclothingdotcom. 

On Finding Support 

"They don't call them vulture capitalists for nothing!" quipped Dr_Dudley_Dabble. According to another commenter, Popperian, many venture capitalists are guilty of seeking out "altruistic true believers," or those who really believe in their vision and are willing to do anything to achieve it. These investors will support you in the beginning, then find a way to squueze you out when the paperwork comes. "It falls under 'get everything in writing,' but there has to be a modicum of good faith in relationships for them to function in a healthy manner and they use that aspect of things against you," Popperian warned. 

Another Reddit commenter, badxmaru, said the same rule applies to cofounders. "If they seem totally onboard with what you want to do and want to chase your vision and make it their own, but then their regular day-to-day or interpersonal activities are in stark juxtaposition with said vision--e.g., your startup wants to help people, but they seem to be heartless--then this is a [red] flag." 

Other Warnings 

Popperian also shared insights on how to watch out for shady VCs. Above all, go with your gut and don't "rationalize away" when something seems off, he said. Beyond that, watch out for petty lies--"you say to yourself, 'Why did they just lie about that when they had no reason to?'"--and beware anyone who puts off signing a contract. You have the right to do things on your own terms. 

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IMAGE: Corbis
Last updated: Mar 26, 2014

JILL KRASNY | Staff Writer

Jill Krasny is a staff writer for Inc. magazine, where she covers the intersection of entertainment and startups. Prior to Inc., she was a writer for MTV and Esquire and an editor at TheStreet. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in communication. She lives in New York City.




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