Startup mistakes

Many technical students dream of having a startup but according to an industry report, an estimated of 80-93% of startup failed within their first 12 months. No matter how good is the idea or how much experience they have, people will make mistakes. Many of these mistakes can be avoided but some may not because they cannot control certain external factors, like a change in the consumer markets or emerging new technology etc. But there are some factors that are within their control as they must learn from mistakes and continue to apply what they have learned so they will not make the same mistake again.

For example, having the wrong co-founder is a common mistake as the relationship between founders and how well they trust each other could set the tone for success or failure. The issue is in the beginning, every founder is motivated to work together until something goes wrong. Many founders are students who are young and often do not know their strengths and weaknesses to manage the relationship and the business.

Another common mistake is many founders want their product to be perfect. They continue to put more efforts to create the perfect product with all the detail that taking the precious time of launching earlier to capture the market. I often told my students: “Build something fast, get to prototyping, talk to customers, get the early model out, test quickly and launch the product before somebody else. You do not need to have the best product but you need more customers to capture the market position, many things can be improved later.

Another common mistake is the failure to listen to the customers. Many founders believe that they have the best idea and the best product. They focus on convincing customers rather than listen to their needs. Being an entrepreneur requires more than technical skills but also soft skills, especially listening skill. A successful entrepreneur understands that he or she does not know everything and willing to listen to others who can help make up for their lack of certain knowledge.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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