Speed is one of the big advantages that startups have over big companies. With just a few employees and a lot of drive, startups can experiment, change direction, and iterate faster than their entrenched competition. Any startup that doesn't work at lightning speed is giving up the edge that may well be the difference between success and failure.

So why am I constantly telling startups to slow down?

How to Fail Fast

I really do spend a lot of time telling startups to slow down--I'm not kidding. But the reason for this consistent refrain is that they need to slow down in order to speed up effectively. You have to know what you're trying to do or you'll just end up burning money and energy, to little effect.

Too many startups, knowing that they're supposed to move fast, make the mistake of running just to run. I can tell when a startup is caught up in this mentality because I see them falling into these traps:

  • Giving up quality for quantity or speed.

  • Doing just to do.

  • Competitive task completion.

  • Action without planning.

These behaviors are a recipe for speed, sure: but they're a great way to drive your startup into the ground, really fast.

Pointing the Arrow in the Right Direction

Instead, before they go barreling forward, I encourage startups to take the time to figure out what they're trying to do and the right way to do it. These will absolutely change over time--remember, that ability to experiment is part of that awesome startup speed--but at each left turn, that pause for planning is crucial.

In Techstars accelerators, we call this "pointing the arrow in the right direction"--and it's what companies spend the whole first third of a program doing, followed by "firing the arrow."

Here's how to point your arrow:

  • Define what you are trying to accomplish.

  • Define what constitutes success.

  • Define your timeline.

  • Define who is going to do what.

  • Go!

Slow Down in Order to Speed Up

If you want to make the most of startup speed, you have to slow down in order to speed up. Force yourself to have the patience to think ahead and make a plan. This gives you the opportunity and clarity to drive toward a specific outcome. Ultimately, the upfront planning time allows for a faster paced delivery and successful outcome.

So slow down, startups--or you're going to go nowhere fast.