*Note the below is satire
Congratulations! You’ve come up with some new, exciting SaaS idea and you’re actually taking it to market.
We already know your story:
After a few pints a few weeks back, you and a buddy got to talking about the inefficiencies of some niche problem in your lives and voila! Like a little chick poking through its frail shell at the crest of dawn, the heavens opened up and an idea was born.
Yesterday, you were just some putz doing menial desk work but today, you’re an entrepreneur. Today, you join the ranks of Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos and Larry Page as a person with an idea that changed the world.
You spoke with a friend of a friend’s co-worker whose brother-in-law does some VC work and he said (allegedly) that your idea sounds “interesting.” Can you say Mark Zucker-who?!
The stars seem to be aligning and you’re feeling unstoppable. This is what it means to be “at the top of the world.”
But here’s the thing: statistically speaking, you’re probably going to fail.
We don’t like being the bearers of bad news, but here’s a harsh truth: 50% of businesses started this year won’t be around in 2021. Most for pretty legitimate reasons including lack of market need, no cash flow, an inability to build a successful team and tough competition.
Some, however, fail for no other reason than their own stupidity. Much like this guy, some startups have no one to blame but themselves for their failure.
So maybe you’re reading this to learn from the mistakes of those who so foolishly failed before you. Or, perhaps because you have a devilish taste for self-sabotage.
Either way, here are 6 tried and true steps to kill your startup.
#1. Avoid Market Research.
If you want to effectively kill your startup right out the gate, it’s important you do absolutely no market research to determine if there’s even demand for your product or service.
People are sheep. They follow the herd. They don’t know what they need, it’s your job as a visionary to tell them.
Researching your target audience only to find it’s comprised of a small subset of an already niche market won’t do anything except shoot your confidence. You don’t need that! You’re an entrepreneur! Don’t let them kill your vibe with their “negativity” about a small potential customer base in your target market. Avoid research altogether and go with your gut.
#2. Ignore Competitors (If You Even Have Them).
Let’s say you fail to kill your startup by being too niche and your product actually has an addressable target market. Don’t worry! There’s still ample opportunity to ruin everything and watch your dream go up in flames.
Chances are you’re not the first to plant a flag as the go-to solution for your target market, but that’s ok! A little competition is healthy, you know that.
However, it’s hard to even consider these other companies competition. What you do is so game-changing that it’s offensive, frankly, to even be mentioned in the same conversation.
Other startups may have attempted to crack the code on a solution for your target market, but they’ve all failed. You want to fail too, but in your own uniquely moronic way!
Our advice: ignore the competition.
After all, what could a company with potentially years of experience attempting to penetrate your target market have to teach you? Just stay in your lane and do things your own way. It’ll probably work out just fine.
#3. Never, Ever Pivot.
A failed entrepreneur once said: To pivot, is to admit defeat.
Put those words on a Post-It note and stick it to your Macbook because that’s your new mantra.
All the greats know that pivoting when things aren’t working – whether due to addressable market, competition, or any number of other factors – is the startup equivalent of really, really wanting a good burrito but settling for Taco Bell because it’s closer.
You knew a good burrito was just the right thing to cure your insatiable appetite; why would you even consider anything else?
Some people think a startup pivoting shows bravery and adaptability. In reality, pivoting exemplifies one characteristic only: that you’re a giant wimp.
#4. Let the Customers Come to You.
At some point, somebody is going to try and get you to put together a marketing plan.
They’re going to say: “You need a marketing plan to get the attention of potential customers.”
Or, alternatively, they may ask: “Are you insane?! You’re going to launch with no marketing plan in place?”
Don’t let these “marketing experts” get under your skin. You don’t need a marketing plan! Your product is such a game-changer, you’re going to have people lined up around the block just from word-of-mouth.
You want a marketing plan? Here’s my marketing plan: make it go viral with no budget. Boom.
#5. Hire All Your Friends (and No One with Actual Skills or Talent)
Despite what anyone tells you, a childhood best friend with two semesters of community college experience and a LinkedIn profile showing they’re a lifeguard at “the Atlantic Ocean” is completely qualified to be your CFO. Afterall, he did your taxes for you on TurboTax last year in less than 30 minutes and you got $200 back!
Investors aren’t interested in you building out a team capable of bringing your idea to life in an innovative, scalable way; they want to see you’re loyal to your friends and don’t forget where you came from.
Make your team look like the cast of HBO’s Entourage. Afterall, everyone needs a Turtle.
#6. Don’t Worry About Your Investor Pitch
Sure, money is important. At the end of the day, this is a business and you recognize that generating interest from investors is a critical step in taking your idea from concept to reality.
But, a small piece of advice: don’t get wrapped up in the dog and pony show of pitch meetings.
Investors like to feel important and so they’ll often try to make a pitch meeting seem like it can make or break your startup’s chances of success. Not true.
Here’s what is true though: your concept is so innovative, so groundbreaking, so undeniably genius, that if people need an illustrious Powerpoint and business plan in order to see your vision, they clearly don’t get it. Their loss.
Don’t get me wrong, you’ll want to play the game a little bit. Certainly dress appropriately (hoodies and flip-flops are the unofficial uniform of successful entrepreneurs – it exudes the perfect mix of childish unprofessionalism and geekish intelligence).
Terms like “disruption” and “innovation” are like catnip to investors, so be sure to include them frequently in you 90-minute long word vomit of ideas you call a “pitch.”
Speaking of your pitch: we hope it goes without saying that you should be winging it completely. Try as much as you can to put the onus back on the investors for answers. When they ask about your go-to-market strategy, retort with: “what do YOU think should be our go-to-market strategy?”
Because at the end of the day, yes, they are giving you money now, but what you’re providing them in the long-term is a lifetime of undeniable happiness and success. So really, who should be pitching who here?
#6. Recklessly Scale Your Business
Woah, woah, what? You’ve actually made it this far and haven’t self-destructed yet? You secured funding off that advice? What?
It’s ok. There’s still a chance for you to fail. In fact, #6 is one of the top reasons startups fail. Because now you have some money. And money – in the hands of an idiot – is bound to be misappropriated.
Start hiring with abandon! Yes, you do need a Chief Listening Officer, especially considering no one listens to you. The more people you hire into ill-defined roles with no clear hierarchical structure, the more rapidly you’ll be able to grow your business.
In addition to talent, here’s what should be on your shopping list now that you have that Series A funding:
- Ping pong tables (tournament quality)
- Downtown premium office space
- Daily catered lunches for your new staff
- An excessively expensive gong so your sales team can celebrate new deals
- A Tesla for you (you’ve earned it)
- An illustrious launch party
- Office kegs
Don’t worry about clearing all that with the board. You’re the boss, remember?
The startup world reeks of failed pursuits. Often, there’s nothing these companies could’ve done differently to change the outcome. The good news is, entrepreneurs brave enough to give it another go with a second idea statistically have found more success.
If you’ve managed to survive these six pitfalls near-guaranteed to kill your startup, go play the lottery today. If you’re lucky enough, perhaps you’ll succeed at that too, only to find a way to completely mess that up instead.