20 Ways Your Company Will Fail By Jason Mendelson

Foundry Group’s Jason Mendelson came to Techstars Boulder to give a talk he has given quite a few times named something to the tune of 20 Ways Your Company Will Fail.

General notes are as follows:

  1. Bad Idea
    If you are not passionate about it, you will fail.
  2. Bad Culture
    Your first few hires set the tone for the culture of your startup. You must be a great leader to hire great people.
  3. Be Arrogant
    VC relationships with entrepreneurs last 10 years. If you are a Startup God you don’t have the humility.
  4. Figure Out What You Can Control vs Can’t Control
    If you worry about what you can’t control, you fail.
  5. Being Emotional Over Analytical
    Highly emotional / hypomanic founders that take it too far. Be presidential.
  6. Not Knowing Your Business Model
    It is ok to not know, but you need to have an opinion on what it is.
  7. Not Understanding Your Competition
    Farmville’s biggest competitor was spare time. You should know more about your industry / scape than anyone else. Misjudging your competition is a red flag into just that.
  8. Not Having Defined Goals
    Don’t know where you are going? Your startup’s chance of success is the same.
  9. If You Run Out of Money
    The CEO makes sure you don’t run out of money.
  10. Not Firing Quickly Enough
    “Dammit, I wish I had not fired John sooner” has never been said. Once your fall out of love you never fall back in.
  11. Continue to Test Hypotheses
    You must change if the market does.
  12.  Not Staying On Top of PR & Reviews
    Amazon reviews and press matter and you must respond. Don’t go to the press too early. The second press story is near impossible while the first is easy.
  13. Don’t Over Promise
    Followup with a mentor if you say. Deliver what you say to your employees and customers. There are traps, don’t fall into them.
  14. Not paying attention to other people’s incentives
    A 50% chance of getting something creates a lack of ownership. Lead investor wins over five 20% investors.
  15. Screwing up the Cap Table
    Big one. Send an email saying “do this and I’ll give you 5%” or not getting solid terms when a founder leaves or is fired. Going to big on the seed round.
  16. Don’t Go Around Blabbing About Your IP
    Doesn’t mean carrying around NDA’s but don’t talk publicly about your core secrets and IP. Talking to mentor is fine as their way to screw over you over means they don’t get to work in the industry. Small world here.
  17. File the Damn Forms ex. 83 B
    You cannot fix this if you don’t file it. Sometimes you can pay to fix things but have a great lawyer that has worked with companies like you with great results.
  18. You Must be as Strategic in Fundraising as in Business
    Form email to VC’s? That won’t work. You need to make amazing first impressions.
  19. Picking  Bad Advisors
    Don’t pay advisors (red flag) except lawyers and accountants.
  20. Your Personal Life is No Longer Your Personal Life
    You have one life and that is now merged. You make it to the news, you will miss out on a lot. The court of public opinion rules without a judge.
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