In my experience in studying and advising early-stage startups, it has become obvious that startups primarily fail because of inadvertent mistakes made by the founder(s). External forces are seldom the reason for the death of the startup. The success of the startup therefore primarily depends on the success of the founder.
How can you, as the founder, prevent slowly killing your startup? Get naked! Figuratively, of course…
Do not assume anything. Anything you accept as truth must be backed by proof. Analytics should back all major decisions.
Do not be biased. Biases are built into our psyche, so they are especially difficult to strip. Have an inner circle of friends, peers, advisors and mentors that can help you identify and remove biases.
Forget your failures. Learning from failure is overrated. It is often better not to analyze major failures, move on, and let the lessons incubate naturally.
Stripping assumptions, biases and failures may seem obvious, but it is counter to the nature of most founders. Founders are superheroes; they are out to save the world. How can you be a superhero without the costume? The founder must consciously strip layers off of the costume, otherwise the startup will suffer a slow death.
But do not fret; you do not always have to be naked. After some experience, both success and failure, you can start putting layers of your costume back on (i.e. an assumption developed based on experience may prove true in most cases). With time, you will become the superhero you were always meant to be.
Naveed Lalani is the Founder and CEO of Portable Boutique Inc., a company that creates Plug & Play Bitcoin Widgets. Previously, Naveed was Chief Strategy Officer at DonorNation.org, and Co-Founder at Rally.org. Naveed gives back by advising the Thiel Fellowship and leading entrepreneurship initiatives at the Ismaili Professionals Network.