Your own mistakes are agony. Other people's are pure gold.
Learning from the missteps of others allows you to gain their wisdom without suffering through their struggles, which is why some startup communities have even started meetups specifically for the purpose of swapping stories of disaster and defeat. This is also what makes a recent LinkedIn post from Neelam Chakrabarty, co-founder and CEO of Oroola, so valuable.
Bracingly honest, the post is entitled "How I ran my startup into ground, in 4 easy steps, and so can you," and, just as you'd expect, it relates the miscalculations that led to her start-up's early demise. Some of the details are specific to her niche but there are at least three healthful general warnings that might help others hoping to get a new business off the ground.
1. Not demanding commitment
Your business is just getting started, why not cut costs by getting in just a bit of help part-time? This sounds sensible but it spelled disaster for Chakrabarty. "95 percent of our 12 member team were part timers. And since these members started as 'let's try it out and see if it works' kind of attitude, there was no seriousness or commitment to deliver," she recalls.
What was the takeaway from this screw up for Chakrabarty? "My experience has made me a strong believer of 'you are either in or you are not, there are no two ways about it,'" she writes.
2. "Building a cargo ship when a canoe will suffice"
Sure, planning for the future is wise, but not when it cripples you in the present. Beware getting bogged down in overbuilding, cautions Chakrabarty.
"We thought about scale from day one as if we would become a billion dollar unicorn the day we launched. We built a system that would be an envy of DARPA or any other fortune 500 company. Enterprise scale architecture, robust (read bloated) code made for very difficult and complex development cycles. It was hard to make any change to the system without requiring an army of developers. One of the key attributes of a startup is agility. Our code-base and complex architecture left us moving at a snail's pace," she relates.
"We wanted to be prepared when the big day came, so we thought we needed to build a team even before we achieved our product-market fit," confesses Chakrabaty. "Having too many team members caused confusion and chaos. We had no time to discuss our goals and vision, everyone wanted to bring their own flavor of idea to life and that caused a lot of confusion and bad blood among the team members."
While Chakrabarty's account is particularly unsparing, she's far from the only entrepreneur who's generously offered their lessons learned. Other founders have also confessed the biggest mistakes they made starting up, while another entrepreneur explained the things she misunderstood about running a business off the ground, so you won't fall prey to similar confusion.