If you’re going to fail, fail forward.
One of the sessions that caught my eye was entitled “Tales from the Crypt: lessons learned from a failed startup” with presenters Andy Cothrel, Founder/President of Blue Marble Medical and Russ Gottesman, Founder/CEO of CommuterAds.
Russ and Andy have both experienced startup success and failure. It’s important to learn from mistakes, apply that knowledge, and, as Russ said at the beginning of the session, fail forward.
Each of these gentlemen have been in very different industries from one another, but the lessons they learned were similar. In this post, we summarize a few of them.
Follow a checklist of things to avoid
The key here is “follow”. If you do a little research and listen to people like Russ and Andy who have been there and likely done that, putting together a checklist of things to avoid isn’t all that difficult.
Following it is another story. Many times, your own worst enemy is you. You KNOW you shouldn’t do it, but you get excited, get caught up in the moment and do it anyway.
A way to ensure you FOLLOW a checklist of things to avoid is to…
Establish an advisory board early on
An advisory board will help you hold yourself accountable. Preferably, the members have also been there and done that and know a thing or two about your industry. They are motivated by seeing you succeed. They are going to remind you…DON’T DO THAT.
But as importantly, they are a sounding board to just let you try out your ideas verbally before committing them to reality. And they are there to make suggestions for what to do instead of the thing you need to avoid doing. You know. Those things on your “things to avoid” checklist.
But keep in mind that an advisory board has a shelf life. If it is a startup advisory board, that shelf life should be about 18 months.
Act ethically and with ethical people
You should always act ethically and when someone has provided you with funding for your startup, there is an even greater need to act ethically – because there can be very real legal and financial consequences to being an unethical steward of other peoples’ money.
Likewise, know who you are getting in to business with if you are taking on partners or investors. “I know a guy that knows a guy” does not a referral make.
Take the time to get to know “the guy.” Spend the money to run a background check. Seek out professional and trade references. The effort and expense will be well worth it in the end.
It probably wasn’t a bad idea
Russ and Andy concluded by saying, in their experience, a startup doesn’t generally fail because it’s a bad idea. More often, it’s the people, the process, the governance and the ethics that bring a startup down.
So do your homework. And then go get it!