8 Lessons I learned from 100 Entrepreneurs

Avoiding these mistakes will increase your odds of success.

Thanks to Joshua Ness

Starting a startup has never been so accessible. From recent surveys amongst leading banks, it even appeared that big corporations are more anxious about startups than about competing market leaders.

However exciting this may be, entrepreneurs still experience a lot of stress and anxiety. Failure is always looming around the corner.

Research found that within three years, 92% of startups failed…

But here’s a secret: many startups make ‘fatal mistakes’ that almost predestine them for failure.

So here’s the good news: you can actually prevent such mistakes if you take some advice from people who have already gone through the stages you are in!

I interviewed 100 entrepreneurs from all over the globe, and assembled tips from the pros to help you avoid the most common mistakes. Read on…


TL;DR

  1. Everything starts with your customer
  2. Keep it simple: get to the core of your business
  3. Test small and fast
  4. Continuously try to make each loop shorter
  5. Prioritise and settle on clear focus
  6. Balance agility and stubbornness
  7. Building the A-Team
  8. The best entrepreneurs know how to tap their network

Have other tips from your personal experience? Leave them in the comments.


1. EVERYTHING STARTS WITH YOUR CUSTOMER

Entrepreneurs often think they need to start with developing their product, at least to a certain level. This is a big mistake. If your startup has a problem with the product, funding or marketing- you can fix it. If customers don’t want what you’re developing for them, then nothing will change that.
— Oren Glanz, serial entrepreneur and current founder @ ByThePeople
Looking back, I would have started by figuring out where the money should come from. For this you need to find out who your ideal prospect is, what the problem is that you’re going to solve for them, and prove willingness-to-pay. We could have been prevented this had we started with the customer.
— Pieter van Herpen, Founder @ Syndy
You need to get to the root-cause of your customer’s problem, figure out whether there is a potential business in this, and then start to learn learn learn!
— Atte Anema, co-founder @ Startup Focus, mentor @ StartupBootcamp

2. KEEP IT SIMPLE: GET TO THE CORE OF YOUR BUSINESS

When you start off, you have this big vision of your business. Then you run into a wall and realise that you’re never going to be able to do all that. Even if you want to be a broad product, you have to start doing one thing really well, and work step-by-step.
— Olaf Jacobson, co-founder @ Floown
When you have an idea for a business, you have it almost all figured out in your head. Then you have to start peeling your idea to its very core by asking yourself the question: “What do I need to go live with for users?” Then you can start testing that core, the minimum viable product, and you’ll find out whether you’ve identified the problem correctly, and whether your target customer is perceiving the problem in the same way.
— Veronika Kartovenko, co-founder @ Sweek

3. TEST SMALL AND FAST!

Often when I speak to young entrepreneurs, they speak about building great stuff. However, I believe more in building fast and then learning by doing. Start building, keep interviewing and improve.
— Uri Haramati, co-founder @ Houseparty
I get it that every startup feels like they’re going to be the next change-maker, but don’t try to boil the ocean. Start small and simple, start with a drop, expand to a glass, then a bottle, etc. Grow!
— Howard Lindzon, Founder and GP @ Social Leverage Investment Fund
Most entrepreneurs, especially the ones that do this for the first time, don’t realise the value of finding early adopters. They are worth their weight in gold!
— Bozhidar Bahov, Founder @ Eastsource
There’s a great danger in trying to perfect your solution at an early stage. Launch your vision in the smallest possible form, get feedback, and continue from there.
— Wouter Muis, founder @ Bamboo Branding, mentor @ Startupbootcamp
The first path of startups is very rarely the right one. Getting to product-market fit is a process of multiple iterations. Think about how you are unique and create value, provide different use-cases and walk your customers through them to see whether they agree.
— Alessandro Marangoni, co-founder @ BlueFox.io

4. CONTINUOUSLY TRY TO MAKE EACH LOOP SHORTER

How to make your company succeed is the biggest mystery for an entrepreneur. It helps a lot when you think of many of your processes in terms of loops. With each iteration, you want to make your next loop shorter. You will do many things wrong, but this will help you to make your next loop shorter and more efficient.
— Nimrod Kramer, co-founder @ The Elegant Monkeys
At the start, we did almost everything manually. This is essentially the easiest way to create value and validate that there’s a business. By making people pay from the get-go, you know that there’s a value. Start with things that don’t scale, and then start automating.
— Matthijs Otto, Founder @ networktables.com
In the normal world time is money. However, when you’re a startup, you always feel like you have the Sword of Damocles hanging over your head: money is time in your early stages, and so it’s essential to work fast.
— Pieter van Herpen, founder @ Syndy

5. PRIORITISE AND SETTLE ON CLEAR FOCUS

As a startup founder, you’re a Jack of all trades. It’s a struggle to be responsible for everything. It’s difficult to find out that one percent that actually makes a difference for your business.
— Pieter van Herpen, Founder @ Syndy
Continuous adjustment and balancing the demands of all your stakeholders create a lot of noise. This causes both dilemmas and problems. Problems need to be solved, but the dilemmas you have to choose. That’s where you and your team need to set a clear focus from day one.
— Jasper Gerritsen, founder @ Hiiper

6. BALANCE AGILITY AND STUBBORNNESS

There are a lot of very knowledgeable entrepreneurs, consultants and investors out there who all want to give you feedback. However, how do you know when and how to change? During the early stage, and during the stages to come, I think it’ll always be a challenge to be clear about your direction yet be open to ideas.
— Amos Raziel, founder @ Mekomi.co
It is your job to apply the feedback to your company without losing sight of your vision. You’re the one with the market knowledge and domain experience. That’s also why you hire a capable team, so you don’t have to go back-and-forth with opinions and feedback of all the team members.
— Issar Zak, serial entrepreneur

7. BUILDING THE A-TEAM

Building the team to execute the plan might be the most important aspect of your venture. But it’s challenging to know who to choose. We believe each hire should have the same value, speak a common language, should have a self-learning ability and proven skills. That’s rare. That’s why you should not ‘always be testing’ but also ‘always be recruiting.’
— Nimrod Kramer, co-founder @ The Elegant Monkeys
The one thing investors will always look at and won’t ignore is your team. Ideally you want to have your team consist of commerce, operations and development- popularised as the hustler, the hipster and the hacker. The most important at the beginning is having partners that are focused on the same thing and having similar goals.
— Michael Forystek, founder @ Befron

8. THE BEST ENTREPRENEURS KNOW HOW TO TAP THEIR NETWORK

The biggest challenges of running a startup are all connected to your network: finding your next employee, getting new projects, and getting feedback on your idea.
— Dan Veen, founder @ We4Sea
There’s really no rule of thumb to speak to people. You start with who you meet, and ask them for recommendations. If you constantly keep getting introductions, you’ll build a valuable network and get to the right people in due time. This works the best for acquisition, advice and hiring.
— Baruch Buchbinder, founder @ CyberRed
Learning entrepreneurship is very common to learning anything else: you best surround yourself with people with experience in the field. By constantly identifying hooks of people that can help you, you can build a funnel of peers with opinions that can help you refine your ideas. Spend time finding and connecting with mentors that can help you along the way, and your chances of success will increase significantly!
— Monique Blokpoel, innovation manager at Innovatielink, mentor at PortXL and Yes!Delft.

Call To Action

What are your tips?

What mistakes did you make that others should avoid?

Let others know in the comments below!


Thanks for reading! 💚 I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. If you want to chat about startups, products, tech, design, or just want to say hello, connect me via LinkedIn.

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