8 Myths Startup Founders Hate

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By Janet Choi

The entrepreneur’s journey can be a bumpy one, with thrilling peaks and stressful valleys. It doesn’t help that the startup world is aswarm with hype and misconceptions, which can worm their way into rookies’ heads and lead them down a wrong road or two. Take, for example, the misperception that scaling is imperative in the early stages, which leads 70% of startups to fail.

We decided it was high time to do some startup mythbusting, so we asked founders and leaders this one question:

What startup myths do you hate the most and why?

With a wide range of wise words from hard-earned experience, on aspects from accountability to how you grow to what really matters, here are their responses:

Aihui Ong Startup Myths

MYTH:  Most people relate success to fundraising.

Many think that once a startup is able to raise funds, it’s considered successful. It’s definitely not true. Raising money is just a means to an end. It simply gives the startup a shot at building a company. Period.

Aihui Ong
Founder & CEO, Love With Food

Kathryn Minshew Startup Myths

MYTH:  Being a founder means you don’t have a boss and you’re only accountable to yourself.

Part of being a founder is being accountable to everyone, from your newest hires to your partners and investors. I haven’t found a greater responsibility than convincing someone to leave their stable job to join your early venture, and needing to make sure you pay them (and give them opportunities that justify the risk) every month.

Once you start seeing that incredible, out-of-control growth, you’re accountable to your team and investors in a different way — taking advantage of the momentum and doing everything in your power to keep the business accelerating. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but people who pretend it’s a free pass from accountability are kidding themselves.

Kathryn Minshew
Founder & CEO, The Muse

Michelle Lee Startup Myths

MYTH: Startup life is coding and playing ping pong at midnight.

That’s easy. The hardest thing to do — and what makes the biggest impact on Textizen — is looking outward to talk with or learn from other people:  customers, advisors, mentors.

Michelle Lee
Co-founder & CEO, Textizen

Mariano Suarez Battan Startup Myths

MYTH:  You need to work 80 hours per week to succeed.

That might be true when you are 20 and inexperienced, but the reality is that if you work those many hours, you’ll either lose your hair, have a heart attack or get a divorce. Exercise, playtime and socialization are all important to maximize your brain power and imagination.

Truth is, if you are passionate about your startup, you’ll be “working” regardless because that great idea or relationship can come up at any time.

Mariano Suarez Battan
Founder & CEO, Mural.ly

Elizabeth Yin Startup Myths

MYTH: It’s bad to run ads.

Running advertising may or may not be the scalable way for you to grow your business. But as a startup, it’s actually really important to get feedback on your product right away so that you can iterate quickly. When you have no traffic initially going to your site, running ads is a great way to get your first users in the door for that feedback.

Elizabeth Yin
Co-founder & CEO, LaunchBit.

Gretchen DeKnikker Startup Myths

MYTH:  If you build a great product, a great company (and business) will follow.

You have to build it all simultaneously. You can build the most elegant, powerful product ever, but if no one ever uses it or it can’t be monetized in a sustainable way, does it really matter? If you don’t focus on building a company people want to work for, who is going to execute your vision?

I’ve seen companies with far inferior products with a better go-to-market strategy and strong company culture win again and again. Building a sustainable business should not be an afterthought.

Gretchen DeKnikker
Co-founder & CMO, SocialPandas

Phoebe Espiritu Startup Myths

MYTH:  All it takes is a good idea and a deck to attract investors.

I’m often astonished that many tend to overvalue their idea. Paraphrasing Steve Case/Thomas Edison, vision without execution is hallucination. Execution is the hard part. Shipping the right product at the right time to the right customers — even harder still.

Phoebe Espiritu
Manager of TechStars NY Hackstars

MYTH:  A startup needs to have a unique idea for a product that doesn’t yet exist.

I’ve been involved in startups that have created new markets. It’s incredibly difficult and it takes a very long time. Find some segment that’s not being well-served. Many of the best startups are based on a meaningful tweak to how business as usual is conducted rather than on a unique idea.

Amazon didn’t invent the bookstore, they simply changed what it meant for a book to be “in-stock”. In the early days, Amazon was much less likely than your corner bookstore to truly have physical possession of a given book, but they were able to create the world’s biggest inventory of books by making their definition of in-stock match everyone else’s definition of out-of-stock. If they knew they could get a book from the distributor, it was in-stock. That idea led to the creation of one of the most successful startups of the last 20 years, but Jeff Bezos didn’t have a unique idea for a product that didn’t exist; he started a bookstore.

Sean Johnson
Founder of SnootyMonkey

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