Colin Nederkoorn

Beware of false startup prophets

As a newbie startup founder, I attended a talk sponsored by a large corporate sponsor. The talk was given by a well known author who had written about starting startups. As a parting gift, I got 2 copies of a large textbook that would teach John and me how to run a startup. Instead of reading the book cover to cover, I flipped through it (John never opened it) and then it stoicly raised our monitors to a more comfortable height.

Wouldn't it be great if they made cinema displays you could raise?

Funnily enough, you can see this tome of advice in the original image of the Standesk 2200. We got to work building a company instead.

There's a whole section of the industry built around making money from people trying to start a business.

There are authors who write prescriptive books that they sell. There are consultants who promise to teach you to be lean or whatever the latest fad is. There are incubators and advisors who will take a chunk of your equity and lend you their reputation and offer you counsel.

The big problem with the startup advice industry is that usually people qualified to give advice are busy running businesses. As your business gets more established other smart founders are willing to talk to you, but in the early days you don't know what you don't know.

One thing I've learned is that there are usually a few ideas in every prescriptive system that are good and a lot that is junk. Take the good ideas and don't get sucked in.

There's no substitute for hard work and perseverence. If you're going to look to someone for advice, check their résumé. Did they become successful as a doer? Or did they become successful selling ideas and advice?

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