Lessons Unlearned: The Lame Startup

Some of the following examples are the kinds of things all bad startups do. But a few of them are particular to European startups. Let’s see…

I come across a lot of immaturity in the startup market in Europe. Some of it is accidental. Some wilful ignorance, created because people simple won’t inform themselves.

So here, dear reader, is your cut out and keep guide to how not to do a startup in Europe.

Let’s start off with money.

Stay really dumb about money. Don’t read anything. Subscribe to no blogs about how venture capital works. Next up, confuse venture capital with startups and assume you simply must have an Angel round. Avoid working out a business model which may actually bring in revenue. Cashflow always beats taking investment — but you’ll ignore that.

Instead, concentrate on looking good and courting investors instead of getting traction with users. Don’t work out how to build a product and win users. Just go out there with a business plan and nothing to show that you can execute.

Raise as much money as possible even if you have no idea what you will do with it and don’t bother with Lean Startup thinking.

When raising capital get no competition going amongst investors to offer you a term sheet. Avoid talking to more than a handful of potential investors. Then, at the first sniff of funding, give an Angel with no experience in technology far too much equity, leaving little to interest a VC later who might do follow on funding. Make sure you choose your investors based on their inexperience and lack of connections that could help your business.

Once you have your investment, instead of actually building an awesome startup, obsess about exiting the business thus ensuring its failure. You should also make sure to ignore the companies that might be potential acquirers. You are far better than them anyway. Seek no advice form any entrepreneur who’s done it before. Go it alone.

Always remember that when you are an entrepreneur the most important thing is to be secretive, share nothing and tell noone what you are doing. That way there is no way you can test your ideas against the feedback of the tech community. In Europe, it’s better also to not look outside your country’s borders — in case there might be opportunities for collaboration.

Regarding your product, there is a lot of work to be done here. First of all pack so many features and services into it that users are totally confused and gradually lose interest. Make sure your CEO has no experience of Product Management and always assume your engineers understand product.

If your startup is a clone of a US startup, then assume it will work, because it worked in the US, right?

Pay no attention to user experience and make sure you iterate the product as slowly as possible and rarely. Ignore user feedback, but if you must, pay attention only to the feedback which merely confirms your strategy, rather than the users who suggest improvements. Obsessively stick to your roadmap and avoid “pivoting”.

Better still, don’t build your product at all. Hire an agency! You don’t want a team that works on passion and dedication. Just one that works on a client fee. Besides, sourcing teams from anywhere based on talent, able to work on Skype and Yammer, is so tedious.

When you launch, make sure it’s in a small market with little prospect for growth. Tell everyone you will launch internationally “later”. To that end, ignore a US version.

The actual launch should be preceded by a lot of PR that you are about to launch and how awesome the company will be. Make sure this goes on for months, even a year, so that when you do finally launch the press and bloggers can be underwhelmed.

When talking to investors and media never rehearse your pitch. They like it that you stumble over your words and can’t say anything coherent about your strategy — it creates authenticity. They also enjoy that there is no real news of story around your startup that would interest their readers or bring their site traffic.

Make sure that, in the case of social networks you try to create a brand new one. Don’t use Facebook Connect or Twitter OAuth to allow log ins. You will be bigger than them anyway and users really enjoy creating more profiles.

Do all these things and you are sure to have the most successfully Lame Startup in Europe. Now get to it!

[This post originally appeared on 24waystostart]

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