Death of a Startup

This post qualifies as “pointing out the obvious” so I hardly expect it to seem noteworthy to you. That said, sometimes the obvious needs to be staring at you through your computer screen, so I’ve decided to spell it out.

The best way to kill your startup is to never launch it. Period. EVERYTHING else you might run in to can be managed, handled, and solved, if your product actually exists in the marketplace. The converse is also true; if your product is not in the market, any other problem or issue that exists will (on a long enough time line) kill your startup.

Getting launched and getting to market bring a slew of benefits, some that are measurable and others that are not. Getting launched and getting to market means you have the real ability to:

  • Generate revenue
  • Get customer feedback and act on it
  • Generate revenue
  • Build on your businesses brand
  • Generate revenue
  • Raise more funds to grow your business
  • Generate revenue
  • Identify new, previously unforeseen opportunities
  • Generate revenue

Not launching, not having a product on the shelves, not having a place where users can try out your software, not having a finished offering means you:

  • Are not generating revenue
  • Are not getting customer feedback, and if you are it’s either too minimal to matter or is based on the free use of an incomplete product, which means its worthless
  • Are not generating revenue
  • Can not build on your business brand since no one knows (or cares) that your brand exists in the first place
  • Are not generating revenue
  • Are running out of money since none is coming in but some is going out.
  • Are not generating revenue
  • Can not identify new opportunities because you haven’t even made headway in the initial opportunity.
  • Can not sell to Google or anyone else since no one buys companies that don’t exist.

Each of these problems, in their own time-frame, will kill your company. If it takes too long to start, you’ll run out of enthusiasm and energy until no one cares whether you launch or not anymore. You’ll run out of money so everyone has to go get another job or start another project to pay the bills, relegating this one to the back-burner. Your competition will continue signing up customers who could have been yours, if you’d only had your product out of hiding.

The excuses for not launching are near endless, and all of them are invalid. A few of my favorites…

  • “It isn’t perfect.” – If it’s any good, it will never be perfect. Products should change constantly or else you are neglecting your customers which impacts the bottom line.
  • “It isn’t finished” – If it’s any good, it will never be finished. If your product is supposed to have 100 features and you can’t launch because it isn’t done, go ahead and launch the 1 feature that sort of works and go from there. If your product has 1 feature and it doesn’t perfectly work yet, launch it anyway. You’d be surprised how efficient engineers can be when they are under the gun.
  • “We don’t have enough money to market it.” – If it’s any good, you won’t need money to market it. The best marketing in the history of the world is word of mouth, which is free. The most successful media company on earth (Google) doesn’t pay for market advertising. Have you ever seen an add for Digg? How about YouTube?
  • “We don’t want the competition to see our product if it isn’t ready because they’ll steal it.” – News flash: the competition has already dreamed up your product and has whiteboarded it to death. They are either already building it their way or have decided it isn’t worth the trouble. On the off chance they haven’t already thought of it, someone you’ve talked to has leaked it to them and they are thinking about it now. And on the slim slim hope that they are clueless about your existence, when you launch your product – perfect or not – they will react quickly and there is nothing you can do about it. Furthermore, for them to be your “competition” you have to be on the field competing. Until you launch, you are nothing more then one of many unimportant spectators.

Get launched. Even if it’s broken and held together by duct tape, get it out there. Get someone using it. Find someone to pay for it. Give them a refund if they’re mad and find out why, then improve it and re-launch. Proudly trumpet your real, active product and business for all the world to hear. Quit hiding in the closet waiting for the right time and the right place and the right bankroll and the right customer. Launching a startup is a lot like having a child; if you wait for the “perfect” time to get started, you’ll never get started because there is no perfect time or perfect situation.

Forget the countdown. Get launched.

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One Response

  1. I love this post.

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