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Startups Anonymous: 38 Things Every Startup Founder Should Know

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[This is a weekly series that brings you raw, first-hand experiences from founders and investors in the trenches. Their story submissions are anonymous, allowing them to share openly without fear of retribution. Every Wednesday, we’ll run one new story chosen by Dana Severson, who operates StartupsAnonymous, a place for startups to share, ask questions, and  answer them in story-length posts, all anonymously. You can share your own story here.]

At my age (I’m 38), I’m not claiming to know everything (or to be an expert in anything for that matter), but I do believe I’ve learned a few things. As I approach my 40′s, I thought I’d share the lessons (sometimes hard) that I’ve learned–and earned:

  1. Nobody cares about what you say, only what you do.
  2. Funding is not the end, only the beginning.
  3. Once you take on funding, the stress gets worse, not better.
  4. Don’t beg for investment dollars. They’re paying to be your partner, not the other way around.
  5. Arrogant and disrespectful investors will never be good partners. Ignore them.
  6. Never, ever, ever, pay to pitch.
  7. TechCrunch is overrated. Unless you sell to startups, it doesn’t do shit. It’s good for the ego though.
  8. Some people only care about people who they think are popular. They’ll only acknowledge you when you appear to be more connected then they are. Get rid of these people.
  9. Some people only like you for what you can do for them. Pay them no mind.
  10. Accelerators are only good for funding and meeting new friends. Is that what 6-8% equity is worth to you?
  11. Take a job if you have to. You will not lose your will to be an entrepreneur for doing so.
  12. Take huge risks in your 20′s. Take calculated risks in your 30′s.
  13. If you have an idea that keeps you up at night, do something with it. If not, it will always only be a dream.
  14. It’s okay to be driven by money at first. Once you have it, you’ll find your true motivation.
  15. Non-techies: If your tech cofounder says it’s going to take three months or more, they’re lying.
  16. If your tech cofounder says they can’t use existing code, cut ties immediately.
  17. If your non-tech founder says they can’t sell X until you build Y, they’re making excuses for not working.
  18. Sales are everything. Nothing else matter. Nothing.
  19. Learn something new every day. One thing at least.
  20. Even if you don’t publish it.
  21. Marketing isn’t luck, it’s hustle.
  22. Press isn’t magic, it’s hustle.
  23. Always partner up, never partner down.
  24. Do something uncomfortable as often as you can.
  25. Failing is part of growing. Very little of what you do is actually going to work, embrace it.
  26. .com’s are still the best domain you can get. It’s probably worth the price.
  27. Things are never as bad as you imagine them to be.
  28. It doesn’t matter where your startup resides. It’s only you that care.
  29. Tech conferences are a waste of time, but fun.
  30. Working all night is unnecessary. In fact, it’s detrimental.
  31. Work/life balance it a real thing and necessary to succeed.
  32. Don’t wait until you “succeed” to start your family.
  33. Stay competitive.
  34. Talk to your customers every day.
  35. Help every entrepreneur that you can.
  36. Take every speaking opportunity that you’ve been offered.
  37. ASC–Always stay curious.
  38. Exude confidence and success. It translates.

What lessons would you add to the list?

[illustration by Brad Jonas]

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