11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My First Startup

startup

Although I’ve co-founded a handful of companies, I didn’t really create my first startup till seven years ago. The first one was Crazy Egg, which helps make websites more useable. And it wasn’t till four and a half years ago till I co-founded my first venture-backed startup KISSmetrics.

As they say, “the startup life is a roller coaster with ups and downs”. So, if you are looking to start one, I hope this blog post will help you.

Download this cheat sheet of 11 things you should know before starting your first startup.

Here are 11 things I wish I knew before starting my first startup:

Lesson #1: Investors love to make excuses on why they don’t want to invest

When we first started pitching Crazy Egg, no investor would write us a check. It wasn’t their fault as my co-founder and I sucked at pitching. They all had different reasons why they didn’t want to invest. After getting over 20 “No’s” from investors, I realized something was off. Each one would sugarcoat the “No” and tell it to you in a way that would make them come off nice.

I don’t blame them as no investor wants a bad reputation. But one thing I learned as an entrepreneur is that when an investor tells you “No”, you should ask what you could have done differently to improve your pitch. By asking this, you will get feedback you can use to improve your overall pitch and increase your odds of raising money.

Lesson #2: Raising a lot of money doesn’t mean you’ll get a high salary

Our seed round for KISSmetrics was a million bucks, and our series A was three million. When we raised our seed round, my co-founder and I were ecstatic as it was the first time we raised outside capital. We were over the moon that we could take a salary. We were even hoping that we could take a nice six-figure salary.

Our lead investor True Ventures was very flexible and didn’t restrict us on how much of a salary we could take. They explained, however, that if we took high salaries, it would increase the overall burn. This means the company would have to raise more money faster, which would cause more dilution for my co-founder and me.

Due to this, we decided to take only a $5,000 a month salary… even after we raised our three million dollar round.

The reason I say we took a $5,000 monthly salary instead of $60,000 a year is that we couldn’t always pay ourselves each month as we had to conserve cash when things didn’t work out the way we wanted. In the long run, everything worked out, but we wouldn’t have been around if we didn’t penny pinch… not just with our salaries, but with everything.

If you are going to raise capital, don’t be dumb by paying yourself a lot of money. That will just cause you to have to raise more money, which means you will own less of your own company.

Lesson #3: Options is the quickest way to dilute yourself

Especially in the Bay area, employees and advisors are notoriously known for asking for a quarter of a percent to a half a percent in equity. By all means, good employees deserve a lot of shares as they are getting paid less to work for you than they would have had they worked for Google or Facebook.

We made the mistake when we signed on a ton of advisors and gave many of them what they wanted early on. This caused us to use up our option pool faster than we would have otherwise, so when we raised our next round, we had to refresh our options pool to a full 10%. This caused my co-founder and me to get diluted more than we would have liked. This wasn’t the fault of our advisors as they provided a ton of value, but we should have done a better job negotiating.

Treat your options as if they are gold. Hold onto them so you can give them to your key employees. If an advisor wants a lot of shares, make sure he/she gives you a written contract on what he/she is going to provide you with for those shares.

Also keep in mind that if an advisor has a big personal brand, the advisor probably won’t have much time to help you. So, get a written contract on what that person is going to provide you with for the shares. (This is only necessary if the advisor is requesting a lot of shares.)

Lesson #4: 90% of startup networking events are a waste of time

What you learn at most startup networking events is the same stuff you can learn online. The only difference is startup events typically cost money. There are a few networking events that are worth attending, but most aren’t.

Look at attendee lists before you register for conferences or networking events. Make sure there are either potential clients or people who are a lot smarter than you are at these events. If you are the one teaching the room on how to run a company, something is off. You can only learn if people who are smarter than you are at the event.

If you want to attend good networking events, look for the ones that are intimate and invite only. It’s hard to get into those events, but when you do, it will be worth it. Those are the type of events that will allow you to create new friendships and business partnerships.

Lesson #5: Live in San Francisco, but don’t build for it

Although I don’t live in San Francisco, I’m there a lot. My business partner lives just outside of the city. The one mistake both of us made is that we built a business based on the feedback we got from individuals within the tech sector.

This may seem wise at first because you are getting feedback from really smart people, but you need to take a step back and realize they are probably not your ideal customers. Startup people don’t like paying for stuff, and they make up a very small portion of the world’s population.

When building a product or service, you need to consider all of the people who live outside the Bay area… like someone who may live in Lincoln, Nebraska. Remember, the majority of the world doesn’t live in the tech epicenter.

But just because your customers may not live in San Francisco, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. You’ll find more tech investors in the Bay area than anywhere else. They tend to invest in people they know and believe in. You won’t be able to get to know them as well unless you live close to them.

Lesson #6: It’s never too early to start making money

When you raise money for the first time, you have less of an urgency to create a revenue stream for your startup. When you take on a seed or series A round, you end up spending more time building a product versus getting paying customers. On the other hand, if you were using your personal savings to build your company, you would try to break even ASAP.

The biggest mistake we made at KISSmetrics to date was that we didn’t start selling early enough. We focused on creating a great product, reaching product market fit… and all of those other things startups do. But even before you have product market fit or even a working product, you can start selling.

It’s been more than a year since our VP of Sales joined the company, and within six months of him joining, our revenue started to shoot up and to the right. It takes a while for anyone, no matter how good they are at sales, to figure out how to sell your product or create a revenue stream from it.

We should have started the sales process before we even finished creating our product because not only would it have helped bring money to reduce our burn, but it would also allow us to learn from paying customers faster.

Lesson #7: Experienced employees aren’t better than hungry ones

When your startup has a few million bucks in the bank, you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to hiring. Because of this, you will look for the smartest person out there to hire…you know, the person with a ton of experience who has done what you want to do… such as executives.

What I quickly learned is that although those high paid people did well in their last job, it doesn’t mean they will do well with your company. In many cases, they do much better in big corporate environments. What they lack is the ability to move fast and do so without relying on others.

Those corporate executives are used to farming out the work instead of figuring out how to do things on their own. When a startup is young, these are the people who I recommend you stay away from. Instead, you want to hire hungry individuals who haven’t gotten that big break in their career yet. These are the ones who will fight and do whatever it takes to succeed.

Later on, you can hire those corporate executives, but you don’t need them at the beginning.

Lesson #8: Your social circle defines you

When you were a kid, did you parents always tell you to hang out with the smart kids? I know mine did… they didn’t want me to hang out with kids who were dumb or misbehaved as they feared it would rub off on me.

The same goes with entrepreneurship. It wasn’t till later in my career that I realized that your peers have a big impact on how well you will do. If your friends are smart entrepreneurs who are successful, the environment will push you to do better, and you will develop faster as an entrepreneur.

For example, my business partner hangs out with a ton of product development people and engineers. He loves it as it helps him develop his skills when it comes to building products. Conversely, I hang out with a lot of business/finance guys, which has helped me understand things like how to raise money or structure a buyout.

Neither my business partner nor I started to hang out with people who could help us evolve until we were well into our first startup. If we both knew this ahead of time, we would have moved out of Orange County a long time ago.

You should move to a location where you can surround yourself with people who will help you get to where you want to be in life. At the same time, make sure you reciprocate and help them out whenever you can.

Lesson #9: The grass is always greener on the other side

If you are coming from the corporate world, you probably read TechCrunch and see how young kids are raising millions of dollars and selling their company to Facebook for a billion bucks.

If you are in the startup world, you always hear about people getting paid well into the six figures with perks, such as free food, working at large companies. And best of all, they don’t have a ton of stress because they only have to work from 9 to 5.

The reality is, neither of the above two scenarios are accurate. People in the startup world work their butts off; they don’t get paid much; and it’s rare that they ever succeed. People in the corporate world, don’t always get paid a lot, and many of them work 70-hour weeks even though they are only getting paid to work 40 hours a week.

Don’t become an entrepreneur because you want the entrepreneurial lifestyle. And don’t work in the corporate world because you want an easy job. Do what you love and solve problems while you are doing it.

I first became an entrepreneur because I wanted to be rich. Sure, I do pretty well financially, but I failed a lot along the way. I now am an entrepreneur because I love the challenge of solving problems that I am passionate about. But if I took my work ethic and just went straight into the corporate world, I probably would have done well financially.

Don’t pick a career path like I did just for the money. The startup world isn’t a place where most people get rich. Luckily it worked out for me, but if I were you, I wouldn’t count on luck. If you want to solve a problem because you are passionate about it, become an entrepreneur for that reason, and not for the money. Money is a side effect of solving a problem that enough people are facing.

Lesson #10: Stick to what you know

Warren Buffett is notoriously known for investing in companies that he understands. He is good friends with people like Bill Gates, but he wouldn’t dare to make an investment in Microsoft because he doesn’t understand the tech industry.

I used to start companies and invest in things I was really passionate about. In most cases, I didn’t understand what I was getting into. But the one thing I didn’t learn fast enough is that passion isn’t enough to create a successful business. Had I stuck with creating businesses I understood, I would have been much further in my startup.

For example, with KISSmetrics, my co-founder and I went through many iterations of the product until we had something people were interested in paying for. One of our previous versions of the product focused on solving problems for online gaming companies.

During that time, Facebook games were becoming really popular, but there was one big issue. Neither my business partner nor I understood much about games as we never created one. On the other hand, our current product solves problems that marketers are facing, which my business partner and I understand really well as we used to own a marketing firm. If you look at the business, our growth is exploding because we know what we are doing.

If you want to increase your odds of succeeding, follow Buffett’s advice by sticking to what you know.

Lesson #11: Successful people don’t always know what’s best

When I started out, I used to get mentorship from other successful entrepreneurs. Throughout the years, their advice was helpful, and without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

The one thing that I kept screwing up is not questioning advice I got from these mentors. If they said something, I followed it because… who am I to question someone who has sold their business for 100 million dollars?

Mentors are great at giving general business advice and guiding you along, but getting specific industry advice isn’t always a smart idea unless that person has a lot of knowledge about your industry.

Just because someone is successful doesn’t mean he/she knows what is best for your business. Heck, someone who was successful told us at KISSmetrics to go after the social gaming market… but that didn’t work out well for us. And it wasn’t that person’s fault… it was our fault for not questioning the advice.

In the end, we pivoted and found our own direction based on the needs of our customers, which worked out well for us. Our mentors have been great and helped us out a lot. We just had to learn how to ask them the right questions.

Conclusion

I hope this blog post didn’t stop you from taking the plunge into entrepreneurship. I myself love it, and I don’t think I could do anything else. You just need to have realistic expectations when taking the plunge. It’s not realistic to think that you will raise a lot of money, create an awesome company, and sell it to Facebook for a billion bucks.

So, what do you think about starting up a company? Is there anything you wish you knew before taking the plunge?

Comments

  1. Chris Winfield :

    Love this Neil.

    “Is there anything you wish you knew before taking the plunge?”

    A startup is like a child. It needs LOTS of attention, time and love.

  2. Another piece of useful content, Neil.

    One thing I wish I’d knew is – one should never start too many startups or projects. Focus on one and stick with it ;).

    Building a startup takes a lot of efforts and patience.

    Thanks for this awesome post.

    • Thanks Devesh,

      That is very true, you never want to take on too much or something will be sure to suffer if not fail.

  3. A very useful post indeed, Niel. Well, if your lessons learnt can get somebody demotivated, they aren’t going to make it anyway.

    To me, your post has a value because you made a point and that is very valuable. There is no shortcut to success. There is only one way to succeed – do what you love and do it with all your passion.

    Thank you for sharing some of your challenges. A well written, well organized post!
    Regards,
    Kumar

  4. lessons learnt , ready to implement some of them

  5. Love the behind the scenes and your feelings towards each of these elements. The specific examples ($5,000/mo salary versus six figures) is really helpful advice.

  6. There is nothing like focus, it is what leads to a start up actually succeeding. When you have many start up. You are likely to exhaust yourself figuring what to do, which start up to give your most time ..

  7. Hi Neil,

    Tons of good advice there. Thanks.

    “Anything i wish i knew” –
    The understanding – that you do not need to be patient always. To succeed it makes sense to hurry. Hurry to get paying customers, hurry to increase traffic.

  8. Hey Neil,

    Where can we learn more about raising capital (Financing) and how it works. And how to do it properly

  9. Javier Bonnemaison :

    Excellent! Real wisdom and honesty here. I specially like your comments about the myths associated with both startup and corporate career tracks, the value of hungry contributors versus “superstars”, and most of all the importance of solving real problems in order to build a real business or career. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Thinking about all these intricacies is daunting, but I guess that’s what it takes to be successful! Thank you again for the thought-provoking post Neil

  11. Great post Neil!

    Regarding Lesson #6 – If we start selling a product in the early stages i.e before reaching product market fit , it could potentially change within a few weeks. The questions is , would you existing customers be happy with that?

    • It is an interesting scenario where you would have to consider the needs of your customers, and your product’s intent. It’s similar to any number of UI changes companies like Facebook and LinkedIn implement. People will adapt, and hopefully find the new product or upgrade more useful than the last.

  12. Hi Neil,This article teaches a lot about Startups and I will keep these things in mind before I venture into my startup.

  13. Startups are very hard. If you don’t find passion or love in crafting your skill and work hard you will not become successful. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Another great post as usual. As someone has clearly said above, one thing which I have found to be ineffective is working on too many projects at any one time. This led to me spending less time on each project, and the results for each of them were not satisfying.

  15. This article is gold.

    I read a lot of articles about entrepreneurship and startups and this one is outstanding.

    1- About Lesson #4 regarding networking events, when I first moved to BA and was still developing the business idea I went to a lot of tech meetups, conferences and pitch sessions at incubators/accelerator. It was a good thing because as a newcomer it exposed me ideas, what was happening in the industries, and also seeing other people present their company I learned from the process.

    But after some time I slowed down and turned to focusing building the company. These events can be a waste of time if you just do it aimlessly, my time was better spent focusing on the business.

    The other thing is the events I attended were not only networking events, there was usually good content, speakers, demos, etc … And I did make a lot of interesting connections.

    2- There is a connection between lesson 7 and lesson 10.

    I think lesson 7 also applies to yourself as founder of the company.
    Being passionate and hungry can compensate for lack of expertise. It is of course best to work on something you know, but I also think there is a learning curve and what you don’t know should not deter you because you can learn.
    In fact experts themselves are always learning new things and evolving.

    • Great insights, Glad I could help : ) Being passionate and hungry allows one to learn things along the way. Strife is the best teacher.

  16. Neil, I like especially that advice-“Experienced employees aren’t better than hungry ones”

    That is quite True, sense of Urgency to accomplish task creates difference between a Legend and a Lazy Bones.

    Quite Impressive Articles, that whats make this Blog High Traffic Blog. Luck in Life and Business.

  17. Oh! About lesson 3 – When incorporating our lawyer recommended we assign 20% for option pool.

    By “refresh the option pool” do you mean you had to increase it by an extra 10% ?

  18. Thanks Neil .
    Well said. Start up need a big heart, risk taking abilities , self belief , and courage to move forward.
    Plus what ever you said i could relate to most of it.
    Awesome post.

  19. Nice one Neil. To be successful aint easy. It requires hardwork and patience. I learnt a lot here and would make good use of them.

  20. Thank you Neil, Wonderful piece of article. Your points are always inspire me. Regards,

    Umar

  21. Amir @ Blue Mile Media :

    Until starting a business, I didn’t truly know how much a good reputation can help. If you have a good circle and a good reputation with them as well as others, that alone is going to help tremendously and take out a lot of extra time proving yourself in certain situations.

    And another thing which I learned too late is a good business lawyer will save you a lot of money in the future. Don’t worry about getting a lawyer when it’s late but find one to work with from day 1.

    -Amir

  22. “Money is a side effect of solving a problem that enough people are facing.”

    Best most impactful quote I have read in a long time.

  23. KenKen The Champ :

    It absolutely amazes me what I learn from you on the regular.

    I believe in the low information diet, and so I don’t have a lot of newsletters that I read… I have such faith in what you say especially regarding “start-ups”… I have been reading your information for what feels like years now.

    And obviously because I am in the process of “starting up” a new adventure offline (physical brick and mortar place) everything is soooo much more pertinent.

    It’s funny because when I do comment I usually try and point out one thing specifically that you say that stuck, but in this post, all 11 points hit home. So, I don’t want this to sound like one of those canned responses, but thanks for the info… Actually all 11 points were very good highlights that I have to put in my “business power points” for start ups.

    I love that you are so fearless… so to speak. I mean that you go out and “do”… So, many are scared at getting the “big no” or to fail that they don’t actually do anything… They fail slow and usually end up giving up or take no action. But you don’t make excuses, you do, you work hard, you work long… I love that about you (even being young) you are a inspiration, so to speak, to those that want to “do”.

    ANYHOO,… Thanks,

    Kenney

  24. I particularly like the part about getting too much advice from tech insiders and creators:

    Startup people don’t like paying for stuff and they make up a very small portion of the world’s population.

    This is very true. Additionally tech insiders will ask for products which are too complicated.

    Starting a company is a longer term and larger project than one at first imagines. Company culture is huge. Make sure to hire people with whom you like working, as if your company is successful you are going to spend a lot of time with them over a long time.

    Fortunately that last bit I got right relatively early. Which makes it a pleasure to go to work for everyone.

  25. Luke - Technology News and Reviews :

    This is a great article. I’m wanting to start my own business soon and I will be sure to bookmark this for the future!

  26. Neil, very good info. It was worth much more than what I paid for it today. I especially agree with Lesson #8: Your social circle defines you.

    I am always lecturing my son on how important it is for him to choose his friends wisely and to be careful who he hangs with.

    But that also goes for me, if I expect to grow my business and achieve the goals I have set, then also I need to surround myself with like-minded people.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a Great One!

  27. Neil
    just curious on your opinion of a JV between a copywriter and an online marketing /web design company.
    Where the copywriter supplies the web content and the web/marketing company helps promote the content and provides website maintenance/upgrades?
    Kind Regards
    Dom

  28. But as Rachelle said, it is Outstanding.

  29. Hey Neil, I enjoy your blog and info. I have a start-up. I am so dedicated and passionate about my venture that I live homeless on the road in a rusty ol’ van while I grow my venture from nothing with nothing. If I had the luxury of a $5,000 a month salary, even for only a 1 time pay check, I could do wonders. I operate on nothing. No income, no salary, no savings. I totally love what I do to the point of sacrificing everything. I started my venture after losing everything I owned in the bad economy and going homeless on the road. I could teach a lot of people how to live on less and about urban survival. It’s amazing how much you can live without if you love what you’re doing. Right?! Hit the road! JR – https://www.facebook.com/RoadWarriors360

    • Addendum: By the way, I could also teach a lot of start-ups and Fortune 500 companies how to live on a lot less. The name of the game is survival. You must first learn how to survive. Survive, strive and thrive. The longer you can survive, the longer you can stay in the game, the longer you have to get things right and make things happen. One must have staying power. I’ve had a lifetime of personal survival. Street-smarts. Stuff they don’t teach you at the Harvard Business School. Things you can only learn by real hardcore experience. In life. There’s nothing like going homeless to teach you urban survival skills. In the business world, there’s nothing like a start-up to teach you business survival skills. The thrill of living on the edge. After being stripped of all your external material assets, discovering your true internal net worth. Accepting the challenge. Putting yourself to the test. Learning to be clever, creative, resourceful. Reinventing oneself. AIO: Adapt, Improvise, Overcome. Life’s a journey. Enjoying every minute of it. Looking forward to more of what you’re sharing. All the best. JR

  30. I agree with Devesh, its best to put your focus on one project and not a bunch of different projects. Pick the best one and stick with it!

  31. Kudzai at EntrepreneurCrunch :

    Neil
    You did point out important issues entrepreneurs should take note.

    Just to add a little, revenue generation should a key target from the onset. I subscribe to the minimum viable product model. One gets the product that’s got the essentials features to get paying customers and iterate based on customer feedback. So that said it’s also key that you have your salesforce ready to sell from the start.

  32. “Look for attendee lists before you register for conferences or networking events. Make sure there are either potential clients or people who are a lot smarter than you at these events. If you are the one teaching the room on how to run a company, something is off. You can only learn if people smarter than you, are at the event.”

    So true, and I haven’t made the same mistake twice. I went to a meetup, and had 5 people trying to sell me offline services (I own a business offline as well) and when I asked about their business plans and developments I should have charged $25. per “duh” and retired after the event.

    I will say although they are not invite only (normally) the events at the Chamber of Commerce aren’t half bad.

    • James, it’s best to try to put yourself out there. You never know when opportunity will knock. Thanks for reading!

  33. Thank you Neil!

    This stuff is worthy of a book – let me know if you need a publisher…:-)

    I need to ask though, how do you balance your focus on
    running an existing company (which keeps the wolves at bay),
    and investing time in good ideas or research and dev, which would evolve into startup businesses?

  34. Yep, if only we could get that looking glass to work. We shared similar sentiments about our past “stupidity” here: http://www.digitalxbridge.com/digitalrumblings/were-stupid/

  35. Thinking Creativity :

    thanks for another great post! for me I wish that I had more people telling me to just ‘get on with it and get started!’ as I really believe that those who dream of being an entrepreneur spend too much time imagining what they will do, rather than just going and trying something – at the end of the day its a science and you have to test and try and see what works, and welcome failure as just another lesson. If I had followed advice from those around me, I would have another 2 years at least before starting my company, instead, its been 2 years that I have been in business – and as a result have gotten many more connections, and opportunity than I could have wished for!

    summary of that:
    dont wait, just go do it!

  36. Great post. Good to know these things.

  37. Wow!

    Neil. Always provide gold content.

    Thank you for your wisdom and sharing it with us.

  38. Money is a first start up -_-

  39. I always believed that a customer is an entrepreneur’s best advisor. He knows what he wants to know.

    Talk to your customers.

  40. Neil, definitely the points you have written can help entrepreneurs succeed but it is also a fact that only a small minority have the luxury of getting funds from angel investors. Can you put some light that which are the angel investors which are ready to invest in startups in India. Regards

  41. “If you want to increase your odds of succeeding, follow Buffett’s advice by sticking to what you know.”

    I’m assuming this is more about industry than it is about business operations / project management techniques, correct? Or would you apply the same logic in those circumstances as well?

  42. Serge @ All Stuff Web :

    Hey Neil, I just wanted to pop in and thank you for this post. I’ve actually got a company that I’m starting up this year which is automotive industry based. It’s a crazy Idea, but I believe it should do amazingly and this was perfect timing for the post 🙂

    I’ll be looking into forming the LLC for it by the end of March. The awesome thing? It’s already paying for itself, so essentially a $100 startup that is already making $3k/month with barely any cost, and it hasn’t even launched. LOL

  43. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for the great advice ! Hope soon I will start my own with great idea that will be useful or need for customer.

    Regards
    Saurav Sharma
    GlobalHunt

  44. Sylvain Gauchet :

    Thanks a lot for sharing Neil.

    I can relate to #10, as this is why we failed our first startup. In addition to not knowing the industry, you don’t know the people that can help you and have influence in this industry. By the time you do, it might be too late (it was for us).

    About #8, I agree but I believe it’s important too to not live only in a “startup world”. Some friends could have been around since you were a kid and always been there for you. You can’t (don’t want to) turn your back on them just because they work shitty jobs, just like you don’t want to turn your back on your family.

  45. Hiring an hungry individual is far better than hiring an experienced person whom we have to pay high. Thanks for all the tips.

  46. My partner Chad and I have been marketing and promoting a SaaS software for 16 months now. We are really close to landing a couple of big contracts. I asked a mentor, “How long do we give this thing.” He said his general rule of thumb is 30 months. If you can’t get it up and achieving expectations in 30 months, you should move on.

    Do you agree?

    • I think that is about right. There is no golden rule, but in my experience that’s a good timeframe.. Best of luck!

  47. http://www.autorev.com/ :

    Hey,
    Excellent post. It seems that you are new when you come in Internet Marketing. Also you have wrote down some awesome points which are simply awesome and need to know by every person. 🙂
    Thank you

  48. Fantastic post.

    I’ve found many of the lessons to be true in my experience too.

    I especially think Lesson #10: Stick to what you know, is important.

    Many entrepreneurs see opportunity and jump at it. The problem is they don’t know much about the industry. They only see the opportunity of making money.

    I’ve found that without concrete knowledge in an industry, chances of success are slim because

    1) Every industry contains certain nuances that make running a business in that industry different.

    2) You don’t understand the customers in that industry, thus you won’t be able to do things like coming up with a USP that makes you stand out from your competition, etc.

    Great post.

  49. Nora McDougall-Collins :

    I recently attended a Startup Meetup. This is a great followup article on that activity.

  50. These lessons are very very valuable.

  51. Aaron Schoenberger :

    Excellent information and thank you for sharing! I’m personally funded a few companies in the past, and I’m not researching funding and starting a new company. Keep up the great work!

  52. Thank you. I have learnt a lesson. am ready to implement and share with others.

    Praise the Lord.

    Rev. Amos

  53. This is a fantastic advice and most are applicable for any type of startup that requires funding, not just internet product. Especially relevant is that not giving yourself a high salary just because you’ve got some investors behind you. Always take your rewards from the income of the products, not from the investment funds

    • Leon, that is one of the most important points I wanted to impress upon readers with this article. Thanks for reading!

  54. Excellent post. Thanks. Will try to follow all

    On another thing – I personally find the add on TechnoCrunch a little bit tiring for the eyes, as it follows you as you read:-)

  55. Great article! Thanks for writing.

    I think the biggest point of this article is SELLING BEFORE YOU’RE READY. So many startups fail because they spend all of their startup funds on a product that isn’t exactly right. Real-world soft launches will always be super beneficial to fast, efficient startups and allow for that necessary tweaking to get your product just right!

    • Exactly, you will always have to make improvements no matter how hard you work to make it “perfect.” It is always best to get it out there and see what feedback you get.

  56. Great post Neil, always good to get advice.
    We are going into first round now, so it helps a lot

  57. Awesome lessons. It was worth reading them.

    I wish I had learned these lessons before

  58. Thank you Neil!

  59. Love this Neil! I’ve always thought about Networking events and their importance. Yes, it’s great to meet with like minded individuals especially from special invites and closed networking events.

  60. Absolutely great article Neil. Love the way you presented the article. Thanks for sharing the wisdom…..best wishes

  61. Well, sometimes we learn lessons the hard way. Anyway, it is never too late to make things right. Just continue to be more persistent with what you are into.

  62. Nicholas Klingaman :

    Personally for me i had experienced a failure in two projects because of investors excuses 🙁

  63. Great post. Was there also a requirement of meeting agreed upon milestones or you would lose additional equity?

  64. Practical and actionable. Thanks Neil, as always, excellent advice.

  65. Garret Weinrieb :

    Thanks for the post, Neil! I was nervous when I created my first company, but much more comfortable now.

  66. Hey Neil,

    Awesome advice. I have a question related to start-ups: What is a minimum number that a company’s potential should be in order to launch? Ex: A company can make x amount over x amount of time. Thanks

  67. Another piece of useful content, Neil.Thank you for your wisdom and sharing it with us.

  68. This is great advice Neil, thank you for sharing. It’s always great to get tried and tested wisdom from someone who tried it out.

  69. Hi Neil ! Thank you for sharing your excellent knowledge. Even small capital can help to push up the enterpreneureal ideas. When we generate innovative ideas then we have to calculate the plus and minus. If we have innovative and unique ideas then stat up quickly because of ideas may change time and again.

  70. Kumar Prafull :

    Was a good read indeed, I was actually looking for the same. Two of your points I liked most were “experienced employees aren’t better than hungry ones” but I feel finding a hungry guy who will remain hungry for a good time is a real hard nut to crack. another was stick to what you know better.

  71. This post was actually motivational, thanks Daily muse for redirecting here!
    As I run my business on my fuel, I too believe that I would be able to get some customers ASAP though I am not a Sales person.

    • Bala, glad we could connect. Please let me know if you have any additional feedback or need help with anything 🙂

  72. I wish i know these important things before starting my first startup.

  73. Wooden Buildings :

    Awesome advice.Thanks a lot. This was really helpfull.

  74. Neil,

    How did you budget your time early on between operating the business, coming up with new iterations of Kiss Metrics, improving development, marketing, selling etc. It seems like start ups mean wearing many hats, but because there are so many task it can be challenging to do any of them well.

    Thanks,

    Troy

    • Neil Patel :

      Troy, it’s all about managing time and working with people who help you achieve the best results. Once you have that part down it’s all application.

  75. Daria Shualy :

    Hi Neil. Thank you for this great piece. I just mentioned Lesson #11: Successful people don’t always know what’s best in a talk a gave at Google Campus here in Tel Aviv (and sent them to this article). I think this is crucial to remember when dealing with investors.

  76. Hi there, for all time i used to check website posts here in the early hours in the daylight, because i love to find out more and
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  77. Thanks Mr. Patel. It was pretty helpful. From an engineering student’s point of view, it was sufficiently informative. I’ll keep them in my mind 🙂

  78. Bernadette V. Cardone :

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  80. Hi Neil, the insights are very clear and each one is cited with a personal experience. It indeed is helpful and a good platform to weigh my own ideas against the parameters/ pointers you laid.

    Another takeaway from here is that you have replied to all the comments. Which tells me, however big the size or client base, it is important if we can interact with all of them thus keeping them engaged.

    Hopefully, will get in touch with you soon for work related stuff.

    Thanks!
    Prakhar

  81. Was searching online for mistakes most entrepreneurs make when starting up and bumped into this post. It is lovely compilation from Neil.

    I am an entrepreneur, and I have tried out some businesses, some succeeded while some didn’t. I have sat down to know the reason why most business startups failed and came to some certain conclusion. I decided to write about it but wanted to read from other entrepreneurs as well.

    Generally, from my findings, these are the few and most common factors that kill most startups;
    1. Most start ups don’t genuinely know what they what.
    2. The fear of failure is the beginning of failure.
    3. Success does not come as fast as they would wish. (It’s a gradual process)
    4. That good customers relationship matters a lot.
    5. Lack of good marketing strategy.
    …….etc

    Keep up the good work Neil, reading articles from experienced and successful entrepreneurs like you help new entrepreneurs to have less risks to deal with.

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  83. Best part of the article was knowing that you never get paid high salaries when you are even funded for a million dollars. Neil,I just came with a startup and will keep all this points in mind. Thanks for this free knowledge.

  84. Do you think that businesses of any size and of all maturities can manage their own marketing?

    • Kaplan, yes definitely. The larger your company gets, however, the bigger your in-house team needs to be.

  85. Thank you Neil for such an informative article.
    Please am sharing this for a general view and advice. I co developed a product(Software) with a friend who i was working with in freelance company. though he is the idea originator but got me involved during the initial development. we developed the application to the point of sales without any prior agreement written nor discussed because i was hoping that as young startup and of course we have worked, known ourselves and schooled together, it will be good deal to merge using the product as our flag-off. We started marketing even while we were developing and currently we have 2 clients within 4 months( 1 paid+1 free pilot testing). he has a business name as i do also though not incorporated yet. We have been using his company business name to promote the product, because i was not concerned with which name we are using rather i was ensuring the conversion of our idea into solution that will generate capital and solve problem.

    I confronted him recently for an understanding of what we are doing which he told me that the product we have been developing is a sole property of his company and that he has a co-founder also who is a lecturer far away from our state of residence who he uses as just business promoter and adviser. but before we started working on the project, he made mention of working with me to becoming a company and that he doesn’t like his company name.

    After many arguments, he suggested that it’s better “himself,his co-founder and I” become co-founders of only the product instead of merging the two startups or that if we are to merge that i will not have the same share with him. i tried to explain to him why we need work together as one entity irrespective of what is current but the future that awaits. . i know that one product can lead to other ventures that might not come from him. he is the originator of the initial product but i may discover other solutions within that space and if we are not working together, i will not develop it under his company because am not part of the company that making it difficult for us to grow.

    We have meet legal practitioner who advised 3 things

    1. since we are just startup that we should merge

    2. reach an MOU based on input on the product

    3. Agreement to become a co-founder of the product

    I have contributed greatly to the success of that product to this point so far and really don’t know what to do now. Infact, i hardly work on my own project ever since we started that project.

    My question?

    1. is it right or legal to work as co-founder of a product that is owned by a company when you are not a member of that company.

    2. he said i can join them but will not get equal share with him but i am as good as he is and i have viable ideas am working on now so it means if i join him and agree that we are not getting equal share, even if it’s my idea, he gets a lion share. thats the problem .

    I will appreciate your advice to this.

  86. Rushal Patel :

    Neil, this is a great post! Thanks for sharing all this information, it is genuinely helpful.

    One thing you mentioned in your post is “If we both knew this ahead of time, we would have moved out of Orange County a long time ago.”

    What counties/cities/states would you say are breeding grounds for a tech entrepreneur? Especially places outside of the Bay Area.

  87. warda farooq :

    awesome piece o writing very informative article i got very useful information about making money online thanks for sharing this

  88. Refugio Pecos :

    Wow! This could be one particular of the most helpful blogs We?e ever arrive across on this subject. Basically Excellent. I? also an expert in this topic therefore I can understand your effort.

  89. I have seen the startup seed being bud in India and Isreal. Later, I have heard that Pakistan is doing better on this. How true is this?

  90. Hi Neil,
    Nice Article.
    Can I publish it on our page?

  91. Michael Benoit :

    I LOVE #7! I don’t think experience can replace a motivated individual with a positive mental attitude…Cheers!

    • Sometimes the ones who are more experienced are less likely to grow than the ones who are hungry and eager to learn.

  92. Carlos Andrade :

    #8! My parents always said that to me and I never listened! I’m glad I do it now. I also like #4. Make a whole lot of sense. It is important to combine #8 and #4. Make some smart friends at networking events.

    • Sometimes the answer you’re looking for is right there in front of you, you just need to pay attention 😉

  93. dheeraj tippani :

    How early should one start doing research and setting up stage before fully starting something.. How early did you start your research before start..?

  94. Best part of the article was “passion isn’t enough to create a successful business. Had I stuck with creating businesses I understood, I would have been much further in my startup”.
    nowadays people are just trying to copy other even when they don’t understand it. well said Sir.

  95. Jeremiah Bennett :

    Neil your articles were my steeping stone into the SEO world. Living in San Diego which I know your familiar with I have been able to build an agency of 5 and haven’t changed as many lives as you still have had the humble pleasure of changing lives not only for my clients but for my employees/team Thank you again for bringing your insight and expertise to touch individuals you may never have even met. Cheers!

  96. Love this post Neil. I can definitely relate to #8 who you hang out around really influences how successful you can be. Recently, I’ve been making a more conscious effort to socialize with others with a similar mentality, and I’ve made so many new connections.

  97. Have been reading a lot of entrepreneurship articles but this one was one of the best and to the point. Indeed a great read and I will definitely implement it on a serious note.

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  99. Jacky@PersistentMedia :

    #6 is so true as we can’t always take it for granted even if we think there is plenty of money left in the bank account. we live by the same approach to sign on clients as early as possible, make mistakes, learn from it and provide excellent customer service.

    Thanks Neil! Definitely learned a ton on this one article alone. 🙂

  100. Johnny Digges :

    #9 was definitely an eye opener for me. I thought I would have a lot of free time when I started working for myself but the exact opposite happened. Working 70-80 hours some weeks, ugh. Luckily, I love what I do now and even the busiest of days don’t feel like work to me. I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Great read Neil!

  101. Sheejo George :

    Hi Neil, You always make people update your idea. It is always a joy reading your blog.

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