First-timer entrepreneur symptoms and cures

Previously I wrote about wannabe entrepreneur symptoms and cures. I was once a wannabe entrepreneur, and then I was a first-timer.

First-timers are not wannabes--they're actually out there doing stuff. And they can be successful their first time around. I've funded some myself. But it's not the norm.

OK, so it's not the norm to be successful at startups at all. It's even less the norm for first time entrepreneurs though. The reason is pretty obvious--they make first-timer mistakes.

I made all of these mistakes in my first companies.

Symptom: you're asking everyone you meet with to sign an NDA.

Cure: don't do it, and know it is a major turn off to investors, who won't sign it anyway.

Symptom: you went with the first idea that sounded like it could work.

Cure: come up with a bunch of ideas before picking one.

Symptom: your co-founders are not startup types.

Cure: be careful with team formation and work with people who really get the startup lifestyle. Listen to Paul English.

Symptom: you think that if you build it, they will come.

Cure: spend a lot of your time thinking about customer acquisition (for me it's ~50%). Only very rarely will they come on their own early on.

Symptom: you think your idea is going to revolutionize something.

Cure: pick another idea or a more incremental initial focus. You're probably ahead of your time. Maybe you're not, but I was by ten years or so.

Symptom: you're about to give up too quickly.

Cure: you're likely starting a movement and not sparking a powder-keg. If you believe in your idea, give it some time. Do you see signs of life?

Symptom: you are wasting lots of time on tangential crap like premature optimization.

Cure: set goals and focus on critical path.

Here are some others that @dowdle left in a comment:

Other symptoms include: one of the first hires planned is a CFO, hiring a bunch of people with Big Co experience and no start-up experience, raising money without understanding terms, looking for office space prior to funding, putting IPO as the exit strategy.

Message here is that the best path to being an entrepreneur is to apprentice under a real one or go work at a start-up and learn the game. 

I did the CFO one too.

I second his general cure, but would add that you can also get there through good mentor-advisors. I'm not talking about an "Advisory Board" that does nothing, but real mentors you go to every month or so and talk serious strategy.


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