Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Startup Advice - its all wrong (thoughts for StartMate 2013 teams)

Most days there is an endless stream of startup advice and to a lesser extent war stories.
So much so, I am waiting for a startup to appear that just curates startup advice**

Anyway, this post adds to the noise by providing advice to ignore all advice. So you can ignore me now :)

Mentors hope to add value during the StartMate process by doing stuff like:
  • providing access to their network
  • asking probing questions
  • providing guidance that challenges a startups assumptions.
  • suggesting a possible next step
For StartMate teams, each week you will pitch to different mentors and get feedback. The next week you will pitch and get diametrically opposite feedback.

This is natural.

For any one startup there will be many paths to navigate and many options. The mentors are going to give you a perspective from their experience. But its all wrong.

All advice is:

  • based on the past
  • based on circumstances that suited their unique place in time.
  • has a shade of confirmation bias mixed in (e.g there were probably some important pre-cursors to some anecdote that have been forgotten). 

Things change fast now and so some gangsta technique that worked before might be fine or it could be passe, this is particularly true of gaming social networks. I think the idea when receiving advice is to "listen but don't obey".

Over the years I've obeyed advice from board and advisors with mixed results:

  • "you need to build a shopping cart so people can buy your $25k product over the web" (bad)
  • "who cares you are out of cash - you need to fly to Singapore for this one hour meeting" (good)
  • "hire this guy" (meh)

You're running your own show and you will make lots of mistakes, the best CEO's I've worked with absorb a phenomenal amount of input and opinion, process it and make it their own. This sometimes mean they take advice and sometime mean they ignore it. Its not personal.

"listen but don't obey"

** maybe thats HN's voting system.


  1. Very good suggestions, personally I’m gonna have to bookmark this and come back to it. Do you have any feedback on your most recent post though?


    1. best of the reat side for using the sside this is the best