The Biggest Lie of Startups: “We’re Going to be Big”

I don’t know how people are so sure about “the next big thing” and if something would “work out” and something else “wouldn’t”.

Call me naive, unexperienced, and skeptical.

I know those who are actually into entrepreneurship and startup-y thing are actually very well-informed and have an instinct as sharp as a knife. You have all the networks you have to convince (or un-convince) you.

I just hope that with their experience and skill, they don’t mislead others, especially selling puffy promises to the team(s) they’re building.

There are some reasons on why keep repeating “it’s gonna be big” or “you’ll have a very good opportunity later on” or essentially, anything that promises some huge benefits later on if “you commit now” would not convince me, or I believe any designers out there.

Market insight

First of all, do your homework. If you’re going to market a product in a locality, like Indonesia, and think it’s going to be big as something else in the United States, think again. You have to live here for years to really know the local landscape. Thinking it’s going to be big in a place you know less about will only make your claim very gimmicky.

Wait, who are you?

If somebody’s going to make a promise or claim, that somebody better got a reputation that proved similar. If you never truly made any big thing in the past, chances are you don’t know what you’re talking about.

The scale (and scope) of big

What is the “bigness” that you think of in this regard? Is it by revenue stream? Is it by a solid product? Is it by user acquisition? What exactly? Wait a minute. Your perception of “big” and my perception of “big” have to match, or else, I couldn’t work for you.

Gimmicky exposure

Trying to convince someone to work on your product on the basis of “we’re just a startup starting something” and “you’re in for a good ride in the rocketship” is exactly the same as bad clients who don’t pay appropriate amount of compensation to freelancers or agencies in the hope of “getting that big exposures later on”.

You’re worse if you promise these things to more junior employees who think startups are really rocketships for their future fame. No, please. Don’t exploit them.

Try a solid presentation with solid data, and sensible prediction or projection.

Is “big” nice enough?

Do you think aiming to be “big” is enough? Do you have a solid product team inside your company who can actually pull this off? What comes to the adage that says “good product sells on its own”? Can we aim for delight, instead?


Here are some suggestions on how you can actually build your team to build the next delightful product.

Hire the right team

Hire the right product team and look at the composition. Positions vary from company to company, but I’d suggest you to hire not only good engineering team, but designers and product managers. Also, sales team who understand digital products so that they don’t look embarassing when using technical terms.

Do not sugarcoat

Never try to sugarcoat your available opportunities to future candidates with investment money (how much of that money goes into their pockets, anyway?), promises to be “big”, promises that they’ll have a “time of their life”, or “we have plush toys in our office for you to fiddle with.” Any of those are such bags of air, and go right to the substance instead: the product that you’ll build, and how you think it would be useful or delightful.