23 Startups Lessons Not Learned or Lame Startup Thinking

Some of these things people are doing wrong are the kinds of things all bad startups do. But a few of them are particular to European startups. Let’s see…

I come across a lot of immaturity in the startup market in Europe. Some of it is accidental. Some wilful ignorance, created because people simple won’t inform themselves.

So here, dear reader, is your cut out and keep guide to how not to do a startup in Europe.

Let’s start off with Money.

Stay really dumb about money. Don’t read anything. Subscribe to no blogs about how venture capital works. Next up, confuse venture capital with startups and assume you simply must have an Angel round. Avoid working out a business model which may actually bring in revenue. Cashflow always beats taking investment — but you’ll ignore that.

Instead, concentrate on looking good and courting investors instead of getting traction with users. Don’t work out how to build a product and win users. Just go out there with a business plan and nothing to show that you can execute.

Raise as much money as possible even if you have no idea what you will do with it and don’t bother with Lean Startup thinking.

When raising capital get no competition going amongst investors to offer you a term sheet. Avoid talking to more than a handful of potential investors. Then, at the first sniff of funding, give an Angel with no experience in technology far too much equity, leaving little to interest a VC later who might do follow on funding. Make sure you choose your investors based on their inexperience and lack of connections that could help your business.

Once you have your investment, instead of actually building an awesome startup, obsess about exiting the business thus ensuring its failure. You should also make sure to ignore the companies that might be potential acquirers. You are far better than them anyway. Seek no advice form any entrepreneur who’s done it before. Go it alone.

Always remember that when you are an entrepreneur the most important thing is to be secretive, share nothing and tell noone what you are doing. That way there is no way you can test your ideas against the feedback of the tech community. In Europe, it’s better also to not look outside your country’s borders — in case there might be opportunities for collaboration.

Regarding your product, there is a lot of work to be done here. First of all pack so many features and services into it that users are totally confused and gradually lose interest. Make sure your CEO has no experience of Product Management and always assume your engineers understand product.

If your startup is a clone of a US startup, then assume it will work, because it worked in the US, right?

Pay no attention to user experience and make sure you iterate the product as slowly as possible and rarely. Ignore user feedback, but if you must, pay attention only to the feedback which merely confirms your strategy, rather than the users who suggest improvements. Obsessively stick to your roadmap and avoid “pivoting”.

Better still, don’t build your product at all. Hire an agency! You don’t want a team that works on passion and dedication. Just one that works on a client fee. Besides, sourcing teams from anywhere based on talent, able to work on Skype and Yammer, is so tedious.

When you launch, make sure it’s in a small market with little prospect for growth. Tell everyone you will launch internationally “later”. To that end, ignore a US version.

The actual launch should be preceded by a lot of PR that you are about to launch and how awesome the company will be. Make sure this goes on for months, even a year, so that when you do finally launch the press and bloggers can be underwhelmed.

When talking to investors and media never rehearse your pitch. They like it that you stumble over your words and can’t say anything coherent about your strategy — it creates authenticity. They also enjoy that there is no real news of story around your startup that would interest their readers or bring their site traffic.

Make sure that, in the case of social networks you try to create a brand new one. Don’t use Facebook Connect or Twitter OAuth to allow log ins. You will be bigger than them anyway and users really enjoy creating more profiles.

Do all these things and you are sure to have the most successfully Lame Startup in Europe. Now get to it!

About Mike Butcher ()

As well as editing TechCrunch Europe, Mike Butcher (FRSA) is involved in a project to bring European technology entrepreneurs and investors together in a club environment called TechHub (@TechHub), in London initially.

A long time journalist, Mike has written for UK national newspapers and magazines including The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The New Statesman. He is a former editor of New Media Age magazine, the leading new media weekly in the UK, and the European edition of The Industry Standard magazine. Since 1996 he has launched or re-launched numerous media web sites and in 2000 he was nominated as NetMedia's European Internet Journalist of the Year. In 2004 he was voted 'One of the 100 Innovators of the UK Internet Decade' by GfK NOP, the fourth-largest custom research business in the world. In July 2008 he was put at No. 47 out of the Top 100 people in London's creative industry by The Independent newspaper and The Hospital Club.

In August 2008 TechCrunch Europe was awarded the best “Web 2.0 and business blog” in the UK, by the readers of Computer Weekly magazine. In 2009 it was named as one of the Top 10 blogs out of the UK. Also in 2009 he was named one of the Top 10 bloggers on Twitter in the UK.

In October 2009 he was named one of the Top 50 most influential Britons in technology by The Daily Telegraph. In April 2010 he was named as one of Britain's Top 100 "digital power-brokers" by Wired UK magazine. In April 2010 TechCrunch Europe was shortlisted in the Specialist Digital Publisher category of the prestigious UK-based Association of Online Publishers’ Digital Publishing Awards. In November 2010 he was named as one of London's most influential people in New Media and "king of dotcom commentators" by The Evening Standard Newspaper. He has spoken at the prestigious Monaco Media Forum and Le Web, among many other conferences. Mike is a regular commentator on the technology business, appearing on BBC News, Sky News, Channel 4 and Bloomberg.

Mike's personal blog is mbites.

Tagged: , , , , ,