Ten Thousand Ways to Die

May 8, 2023

By Terry Harmon, CTO

It’s March 216th.

The pandemic has rocked most everything in our society and flipped the status quo completely.

Frankly, it’s brutal to be a startup founder now-a-days.

Hi. I’m Terry.

I like building startups and extreme music. Those two things rarely intersect, but the fine people at VAULT who manage our blog gave me an admin account and limited supervision. So this is happening.

My goal is to pass along helpful startup guides and tips while making an excuse to passively talk about some of the music I love. I’ll keep doing it until my account gets revoked.

I’ve been doing this a long long time, and through the years I’ve encountered lots of concepts that can be damaging to a startup’s potential growth (and have been the culprit in lots of cases as well). The wrong goals suck the life and cash out of any startup.

Despite the title, I don’t expect people to read all 10,000 of these concepts and personas, so I’ll keep it brief.

The Philosopher

“Premature optimization is the root of all evil”.

If any of our clients are reading this, they’ve definitely heard me say this line more than once. One of the most damaging things any startup can do is try to solve a problem that they don’t have.

We’re all innovators. That’s why we chose to tread new paths and create a company that we think the world needs. It definitely requires an imagination. But, it’s important to be imaginative and grounded at the same time.

Yes, it would be awesome for our applications to get 10,000 DAU in the first month, but in most realities that doesn’t happen. I’ve seen and been involved in handfuls of startups that worry about fixing “scaling” problems before they even happen.

You have to channel your inner Boy Scout. Be prepared, and most importantly be reactive to problems you can see coming. Just don’t spend valuable time solving an imaginary problem when there are a plethora of tangible problems that need your attention. right. now.

The Illusionist

“Fake it till you make it”.

We’ve all heard that saying. While it’s sometimes valid, when you’re selling a concept OR raising money, no one likes a disingenuous asshole. Most people in startup land can sniff that attitude out pretty quickly, and more times than not put a pretty bad taste in their mouth.

Being humble always has more advantages than being cocky or not being able to admit you’re learning new things every day.

Bonus: you’ll get way more people willing to help you if they feel like they are providing value. If you always act like you know everything and are putting on a constant dog and pony show, potential advisors will feel like they have nothing to teach you.

The Abyss

I saved the worst for last. Not learning from your past successes OR failures is the death-nail to innovation. Or your personal life for that matter.

While I’ll spare you guys from specifics, I’ve failed a metric shit-ton in my career. Whether it was getting an idea off the ground, fudging up a bug fix, or with a relationship; there’s always something to be learned that you should try your hardest to carve into stone and never forget. In more ways than not, my previous failures have in some form directly influenced my successes.

Yes, having success is awesome and sometimes brag-able. But you are the sum of all your parts and actions; good or bad.

Your past directly influences who you as a person and founder are. Embrace it.

Alright, time’s up and I have to get back to work.

Hopefully this was a fun, meaningful read. I’ve been guilty of being all three types of people I talked about today, so if you see yourself in any of them, don’t feel bad. Nobody is perfect. I’m sure as hell not.

If you like this segment, you go right ahead and slide into those Vault DM’s. We’d love to hear from you.

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