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Things we've done wrong with our startup (willwashburn.com)
34 points by willwashburn on May 21, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 15 comments

Incubator infatuation...We ended up getting attention, but we never had the product ready because…we were too busy trying to get their attention.

You raise an interesting issue. Whenever you do something, you should ask, "Am I doing this for my customer or for my investor?" The answer may surprise you.

I bet both your customer and your investor would prefer if you focused all of you attention on your customer.

I definitely was told not to, and we did it anyways. I guess it's one of those "watch out, the pot is hot" type of scenarios ... I had to touch the pot to really "know"

I am making an effort now to keep asking myself the hard questions.

  I wrote exponentially worse and worse code as the hours
  went on and then pushed right as I left for the “real
  life” component. None of that code ended up working.
If only my boss would understand this.

At first, I didn't quite get it either.. probably just because I'm a few beers down. But, its not just your boss i guess.. the two posters above didn't get it either.. of course its just that imaginary numbers are written with real part on left and imaginary on right.. "a + bi".. but the author takes a right when leaving for the real part from the imaginary. That was a good one!

He said he worked a "50 hour day". I guess he pulled a couple of all-nighters straight?

I'm all for crunch time pushing myself, but I learned the hard way back in college that all-nighters weren't very productive.

Does your boss ask you to pull all-nighters? If so, that's not very bright of him.

My boss is a workaholic. I didn't think much of it at first. It's his company, I understand why he's putting so much effort into it.

But it didn't take too long to start feeling the pressure from everyone to put in crazy hours like he is.. even if he's the sole owner and no one else but him will profit from it directly.

Why are you here and not working? Just joking, sorry. Anyway, seriously, a lot of people seems not to understand this. A fresh mind might not last too many hours but produces better. This is something that a lot of people need to learn. And i am not just reffering to bosses. Also a lot of developers, like the author. Eventually we(developers) will learn but with bosses it's a bit harder...

They say that you learn more in your failures than you do in your successes. I think that’s just what people say when they fail. Fair enough, so you would go with the 37signals philosophy - that failure is overrated? I've always looked at failure as the fastest path to long term success. An investment. A humbling, yet necessary tool for startup people to learn and move quickly. I might even argue that I sometimes seek it out.

I didn't mean to belittle failure - for sure it has value. I just think there is more value in working through it - that is to say, you don't need to fail entirely to see the message. Without getting too esoteric or semantic, failing and failure are differences that sometimes we don't appreciate.

Said another way: the earlier you recognize the problems the better, best if done before you "fail".

A fun story about failures:


"failure is always an option"

thanks for the link

I definitely commend the self-review, the clearly defined points and being left with the sense of future fixes. Assuming Social Blendr does well, will you continue to be as reflective? And, what type of development process have you in place to aid in avoiding the same pitfalls? Even the most lean Agile Scrum process and tools can aid in the framework to support future success.


Thanks for sharing. Some commonly spoken about issues. Good you have acknowledged these earlier rather than later. Liked the 7000 pivots comment.

Thanks. I recognize now that I've heard all these before and yet we still made the same mistakes. Hoping to take some steps now to correct that, one of which being acknowledging them!

The most important/useful item on your list was #5.

Once you have a good Mentor, he or she can help you to avoid the other 4 problems in your list.

Find a Mentor who has a track record of success who can articulate how she achieved her success and learned from her failures. Buy that Mentor lunch every week or so, and get her thoughts on your pivots, the hours you're working, and your whole business model.

Informally commit to some goals in front of the Mentor and stick with them. If you get some other ideas like you want to pivot on your product, change your sales strategy, or dramatically alter your work schedule; try to satisfy your need to change by writing down the changes you're thinking about and then putting them aside to get back to the goals you set with your Mentor. At your next Mentor lunch, bring up the change ideas and get her feedback before deciding on your next short-term goals.

I'm not saying to let someone run your business or rule your life. All I'm suggesting is that you increase the speed that you're learning how to succeed by capitalizing on the successes and failure of someone else.

Like the saying goes, "A fool learns from his mistakes, but a truly wise man learns from the mistakes of others."

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