A friend of mine shared this article with me over Twitter, after we discussed (and agreed), that tech startups underestimate the power of sales and marketing. I still believe that to be true, but the article sounds like someone in a suit with a ‘real’ job wrote it without the slightest insight into the mind of an entrepreneur.
While some points are valid, the majority of them were presented so poorly that any entrepreneur reading this would just shake their head in disgust and miss the message. Seeing as Twitter arguments usually go nowhere, I decided to write my ‘rebuttal’ here and highlight the important points from a different point of view.
The article states that if you don’t have enough capital to start, you shouldn’t start. I fully disagree, as this goes against the definition of entrepreneurship. As a general rule of thumb, I agree with Chris Dixon’s view, as stressing over money will just be a distraction and might affect your vision. However, it is more important to get started and to be creative about funding. Of course nothing goes according to plan (and yes, you will probably go over budget), but if you wait until the situation is perfect, the opportunity will pass you by.
The second mistake is described as startups “try[ing] to be a ‘big company’ right off the bat”, instead of focusing on the product and their customers. These founders typically care more about the status, or get distracted by unneeded luxuries (if you want to work in a huge office, with a beautiful view and a nap room, you know where to go). While the article mentions what not to spend your time and resources on, it doesn’t clearly emphasize that successful entrepreneurs don’t need all the bells and whistles to get it done. They just do it. They work out of their parents’ basement, a garage, or a Starbucks.
The third mistake mentioned in the article is the lack of strategic planning and a back-up plan. Once again, the article brings up a good point but fails to communicate it to entrepreneurs filled with passion for their ideas. Don’t get me wrong, entrepreneurs are in fact flexible and will adapt as needed, but it is not as simple as thinking up a quick solution. Some startups may take months or years to pivot, and it’s not always the result of a simple contingency plan. I agree that before launching, you must address all the possible obstacles, and formulate a back-up plan for each scenario. However, don’t neglect to study market trends and only exploit new opportunities to create value. Planning is essential, but you must implement the strategy that you feel best meets customer needs at that given point.
Next, the article covers the “Techies Know Everything” syndrome, and addresses the importance of acknowledging ‘blind spots’ related to marketing and sales. While I completely agree that marketing and sales are often neglected by tech startups, this is where I realized why the article rubs me the wrong way. I am used to reading articles about startups for an audience of entrepreneurs, and this article appears to be a summary of startup mistakes for outsiders. Even later on in the article, the ‘build it and they will come’ myth is only briefly mentioned, rather than examined in more detail. I’m not accusing anybody of this, but I would prefer to read more about how to bring in experts or where to learn basic PR skills. Instead, the article covers some general mistakes without much research of actual downfalls by existing startups and the solutions remedying these issues.
The article goes on to list a few additional mistakes, however, if you’re an entrepreneur, these types of articles are not for you. Instead work on your idea, and read articles that offer in-depth analysis, advice, and solutions to startup mistakes.
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