10 Stupid Reasons Why Your Startup Is Failing

This list is pretty self-explanatory but for those founders with their heads down, barrelling forward I will explain.


I’m not an expert by any means but after my first couple of years working with or at startups these are the most egregious errors I’ve encountered.

  1. Your product is down and can’t get back up. Let’s face it tech breaks all the time. However if you spend 99% of your time telling users “We’re fixing it” and that “it” is your core technology, you’re screwed.
  2. You can’t hear the haters, or the fans. People are busy worrying about themselves. If someone takes the time to actually give a crap about your product and provide advice, You should fucking listen.
  3. You’re not helping. Some of the most successful startups and founders generally seem to be really helpful people. Why? Because they’re use to solving problems for others and this ethos is infused into their startup’s product and culture. If you’re not the kind of person who’s into helping others you don’t know, that same practice will seep into your startup and doom you to failure.
  4. You have a contact form on your website that you don’t respond to. Enough said.
  5. You’re afraid to lose friends by bugging them about your startup. Those people aren’t your friends make new ones who want to see you succeed.
  6. You have an image to maintain. Before you get an expensive office with a secretary and a highly paid executive team you should have users, investment or recurring revenue. Period.
  7. Paperwork is for peons. This applies to any unglamorous work at a startup like server maintenance, book keeping or customer support. If you’re too busy to get your hands dirty your employees will feel the same.
  8. You double down on dumb ideas. When something doesn’t work doing it on a larger scale will not make it work better. Figure out what went wrong and do it differently. Build on success not on failure.
  9. You don’t reach out to randoms. That opportunity you’re looking for could be found by commenting on avc.com or replying to a tweet from someone. Serendipity is a big part of success. You, however, ignore these opportune gifts so you’re going to fail.
  10. “I don’t make those dumb mistakes”. Startups are all about mistakes. Even the Zuck makes them. The point is to learn from them. If you read this list and didn’t recognize any of the mistakes you’re making, congratulations you’re on your way to building a failed startup.

James McNab is the Founder of Madrasa, a website that aggregates startup learning from around the web. He also runs @DesignStarts an automated startup job feed for designers. James spends his free time fantasizing about having super powers.