18 mistakes that kill startups

Notes and quotes from a Paul Graham article.

Macro mistake above everything is make something people want. 

Single Founder 

1) It's alarming if you can't convince any of your friends to start a business with you. 

2) Starting a startup is too hard for a single person. 

Even if you could do all the work yourself, you still need someone to brainstorm with, talk out of stupid decisions and be there for you. 

The low points are so low that few can bear them alone. 

Bad Location

Go to a big city. This is obvious.

Marginal Niche + Derivative Idea

Don't work on something incremental or is another version of an existing concept. 


Balancing the line between opening to new ideas and switching to a new idea every week. How to do an external test for this? Ask whether the ideas represent progression. 

Choosing the Wrong Platform

Don't operate on the wrong platform. Platform meaning the framework that you're building on top. IE: Zynga got crushed by FB. 

Slowness in Launching 

Slowness in launching = procrastination in life

Launching Too Early

Launching too slowly killed more startups than launching too fast. Danger in launching too fast = ruin your reputation. What is the minimum? A) Useful on its own B) Something that can be incrementally expanded into the whole project

Having No Specific User In Mind

if you're trying to solve problems you don't understand, you're hosed. 

Don't guess what will work, find users and measure their responses. If you can't make it for specific ones then you'll have to talk to people who understand it.

Raising Too Little Money

Startup funding is measured in time. Every startup that isn't profitable has time until they have to stop -- runway. 

Hiring suggestions: don't do it if you can avoid it, pay people with equity rather than salary not because of saving money but you want people who are committed enoguh to prefer that and hire people who are going to write code or go out and get users.

Raising Too Much Money

One VC who spoke at Y Combinator said, "Once you take several million dollars of my money, the clock is ticking." When raising millions, investors get cautious - not saying yes or no but just engaging in endless conversation. 

YC advises founders who seek the money to take the first reasonable deal they get. Bargain-hunting among investors is a waste of time. 

Sacrificing Users to (Supposed) Profit

Making something people want is so much harder than making money from it. Worry about the business model later.

Fights Between Founders

Advise founders to vest so that there will be an orderly way for people to quit.