If You Want Your Startup to Succeed, Keep It Simple

Simplicity Is Not an Art, It’s a Learned Science

Joe Procopio


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Like most entrepreneurs, I’m often guilty of adding unnecessary complexity to almost everything I do.

It’s an entrepreneurial trait that’s so sneaky, I don’t even have a catchy name for it, like “complexity enthusiast” or “chaos enabler.” If anything, we’re “over-doers” — we overbuild, we over-communicate, we oversell. It always seems like I’m adding value when I do it, but what I’m really adding is hurdles to a 100 meter dash.

Even after a couple decades of learning from my mistakes, I still love to throw those hurdles onto the track. A few years ago, working with one of my mentors, I sent him a draft of a proposal I wanted to send to a large and strategically important partner prospect. The draft was three perfectly sculpted paragraphs, delicately worded to simultaneously explain our business, our value, and how we could make the partner exponentially more successful.

He sent me back an edit of my draft that turned my three paragraphs into three sentences. And he was right. And I’ll always remember the note he added to the bottom:

“You could probably lose that last sentence too. Up to you.”

But even though I’m still occasionally guilty of allowing complexity creep, I figured out why it happens and how to fight it.

How Complexity Creep Starts and Spreads

I take comfort in the fact that almost all entrepreneurs suffer from complexity creep, and I’ve gotten better at it, but not until I figured out that simplicity is actually not an art at all, it’s a necessary and learned science.

For almost all entrepreneurs, especially those of us who aren’t business generalists — for example, I’m a tech entrepreneur — complexity creep is a natural phenomenon, not an intent. In other words, complexity creep will always happen unless we’re proactive about keeping it from happening from the very beginning of everything we do.

Complexity creep happens because all of us entrepreneurs are in the business of building something from nothing, which requires us to envision huge and complex final products before we take that…



Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com