Success In Startup Is All About What You Don’t Do

How to say no when every instinct tells you to say yes

Signing a large customer that’s more risk than reward

This is by far the most frequent mistake because it’s the hardest opportunity to say no to. Every early-stage startup should take on every customer they can, for any work, at any price point. Eventually, though, this behavior needs to stop, or the losses will strangle the company. But strangely, a lot of founders never get to the point where they start saying no; instead, they wind up taking on more and more unprofitable jobs.

Taking on a deal that’s too far out of scope

In somewhat the same manner, changing who you are to fit the needs of one large customer can also be a mistake.

Focusing on non-revenue generating tasks

Not every moment of startup life is about generating revenue. But when you’re in a leadership position at a startup, ideas will come at you from every corner, including the corners of your own brain.

Considering enhancements that are rooted in anecdotal reasoning

Enhancement requests will also come at you frequently — from customers, from stakeholders, even from your internal team. Those requests usually wind up sounding something like this:

Jumping at partnerships where the economics don’t work

The larger the partner, the sexier the partnership. But I’ve also found that the larger the partner, the more likely the partnership will be economically one-sided to their benefit. Because they can demand it.

I’m a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. Sold ExitEvent. Building & GetSpiffy. Former Automated Insights. More info at

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