The things first time founders do…

Jan 22, 2012 · 7 min read · 4,683 views

Last week @robfitz asked me on short notice to join a panel at #foundersexchange about what first time founders shouldn’t do. I quickly took a moment to write down some suggestions into my moleskine to prepare myself. Things I witnessed in our company and things I noticed in other startups.

That “some suggestions” became a full page and that full page became a monster that had almost no free white space left. It was so full of stuff we did, it was ludicrous. It was dark like the night and microscribbled as if I hated that poor moleskine page.

My message at the panel was simple: “Don’t be a first time founder…” – or at least not the kind of first time founder I used to be ;)

After a gentle push by Rob and Sal I decided to share those first time founder mistakes we did publicly. I hope you can learn a thing or or two (to avoid) from this. If you have been through your first startup maybe you see yourself in some of them as well :)

Don’t be a first time founder…

Been there, done that…

I have to admit that some of the items are a little bit more specific to what I did wrong. So maybe you didn’t see yourself in all of them. Although several of those mistakes contradicted my instincts even back then - I still did them. And this simple fact shows me how much I fundamentally needed to learn.

We have been working on our Startup for 3 years now and there were more reasons that it should have collapsed than I can think of. But we have survived and have (hopefully) grown a lot since then. Maybe that is why it feels like I work already in my second company. But maybe I am just still very naive…

Commercial Break: A new event format for London

I strongly advocate speaking openly about things I did wrong - and I advise you to do the same. Maybe it’s because I am better in seeing my mistakes than the things I did right. And maybe it’s therefore easier for me to share at least the things you shouldn’t do instead of things you should do. But learning from failure is imho always worth sharing.

If you want to share you own failures or want to learn how to avoid those, join the upcoming meetup of London’s new event format Failboat. It’s no VC, no Press, no bullshit. Just founders talking straight honest.


I am pretty sure you did some of the things I mentioned above. And I am quite certain you did some other ones as well…

I am happy to extend the list - What’s your list of “sh*t first time founders” do. Let me know via twitter or in the Hackernews comments .

Until then. Go play. It’s only failure if you don’t stand up ;)


Edit: Thanks to @lfittl, @pmoe, @hailpixel and @deanfankhauser for sending me several gold nuggets I was missing :)

Edit2: Until now I had only two kinds of feedback: “I did a lot of these…” and “Those things are obvious aren’t they…” guess which feedback was by first-time founders ;)