How to avoid obvious failure as a startup

      5 Comments on How to avoid obvious failure as a startup

Look at the top startups– the ones who are actually making money versus the pretenders.  What’s the difference between them? You’ll notice that they all work ultra hard, are ultra networked, and are ultra knowledgeable.  The catch-22 is that if you’re a one man show, how can you possibly put in enough time to work, meet people, and learn at the same time?

Let’s look at how people fail at this:

  • Ultra networkers: You know these folks– they pass out their business card to every thing that has a pulse. Many are but an inch deep, as all they know are people, not topics.  They do add value because they can introduce you to folks who do have knowledge– and that can often come off as name dropping.  Find them most often in sales. Having great contacts, but not having knowledge is like trying to eat a bowl of cereal with a fork.
  • Ultra knowledgeable: Academics. Find them in universities, reading books, writing books and lurking on forums.  They are afraid of actually getting started for not knowing enough– afraid to fail, so they don’t try.  Zero execution and often no network.
  • Ultra hard workers: Often entrepreneurs– fire, ready, aim. The most damaging of these 3 types.  They are so ready to move in any direction with no goal– just eager to go, go, go.  Lots of open projects– zero of them completed.  The aftermath of the eternal fire alarm is a trail of destruction.

Do you recognize yourself in any one of these profiles?  How do you avoid the traps these folks fall into?

Focus on learning, networking, and execution in that order.  

Good luck getting a question in.

  • If you try to network before learning, then you come off as an idiot— you should be researching the folks you meet beforehand, anyway, out of respect. Plus, you’ll have something interesting to talk about instead of saying “So what do you do, anyway?” or asking them questions they’ve heard a zillion times.  If you’re going to a conference, know who you’re meeting before you leave, hit up the speakers before they speak (they’re mobbed afterwards).
  • If you decide to execute before networking, you run into brick walls— your yet-to-be-discovered colleagues could have told you if only you had asked.  Like Sissyphus, you’re going to rolling that ball up the hill for the rest of eternity– making every mistake in the book.

But that doesn’t mean that you should do only learning in the learning phase.  In truth, you should be doing all three, but have a primary focus in each step.  The art of learning by doing, which is to have small active projects you’re learning on is not the same as running a large project and promoting it.  This process of learning, networking, and executing also doesn’t mean that you’re not working as hard– you can still work 80 hours a week, but spend your time in the right proportion.



About Dennis Yu

Dennis Yu is the Chief Technology Officer of BlitzMetrics. He is an internationally recognized lecturer in Facebook marketing, having been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Fox News, and CBS Evening News. He is also a regular contributor for Adweek's SocialTimes column. Dennis has held leadership positions at Yahoo! and American Airlines. He studied Finance and Economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics. Besides being a Facebook data and ad geek, you can find him eating chicken wings or playing Ultimate Frisbee in a city near you. You can contact him at, his blog, or on Facebook.

5 thoughts on “How to avoid obvious failure as a startup

  1. Gareth Morgan

    Very sharp observations there, well done. I’ve been marketing online for 2 years and I’m nowhere near where I planned to be by this time. This is all down to what you’ve put in this post. Newbies take heed of these words!

  2. Kaleb Phillips

    I’m the ultra knowledgable type myself. I decided to take a different route though. I recruited the ultra networker (my roommate) and the ultra hard worker (the girlfriend) to run my start up with me. That way I have the 3 necessary experts and we can all focus on our specific area.

  3. Pingback: Why get rich quick schemes are like strangers offering candy to children. - BlitzMetrics

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