35 more things startups do not need

Be more focused and productive by avoiding these traps

I met a startup a few years ago that had the most phenomenal website. The branding was crisp, it carried over to their impressive pitch deck, and they even had high-quality swag!

“So how long did you spend putting this together?” I asked.

He looked at me with a straight face and said three months. When I followed-up with what progress they made on their product and customer development, he said they hadn’t started yet.

This was in the heyday of startup euphoria when VC’s were throwing money at startups. Now the tables are turned and getting funding simply because you have a slick pitch doesn’t work anymore.

Startups are hard. Don’t make it harder by wasting precious time & money!

Several months back, we shared 35 things that startups do not need. As Startup Advocates, we see a lot of things early-stage startups do that make it harder for them to succeed, like spending on branding and swag. This is especially true now when attracting investor interest has never been harder.

We got a ton of feedback on our original post with additional things we did not even consider. There were also some items we did not have the space to include the first time around. So here is out part II of 35 things startups can do without with all the same caveats about stage, size, and some bit of humor applied!

  1. Unlimited vacation time – There is a time and place for perks, but your employees joined your startup because of the vision, not the vacation.

  2. Ping-pong tables – We love all games, but the ping-pong, foosball, and pool tables are so passe. Be more creative and economical with the games, or better yet, get out of the office and enjoy the outdoors.

  3. Elaborate off-sites – Getting together as a team is important, but getting caught up on logistics for a fancy event is not a good use of time. Keep it simple!

  4. Full-time admins – Hiring virtual assistants part-time can be valuable for grunt work tasks, but having a full-time admin is not a good use of funds at this stage.

  5. Endless advice – There are well-meaning folks sharing advice about startups, just remember that their advice is from their own lens of experience and may be outdated.

  6. Paid advice – Never pay for advice, pay for execution. Some one that want to be paid for their advice should put their money where their mouth is and do the work.

  7. Perfect MVP – It’s an MVP, it is not supposed to be perfect. It is meant to being a starting point. The process of refinement to shape your product is a journey that will never end.

  8. Outsourced development – For a basic MVP it is fine to use a hired developer or developer shop, but anything more is asking for trouble ahead. Own your tech as soon as possible.

  9. Optimizing architecture – There is a time when tuning your architecture makes sense, but that is more of a post-MVP activity when you can revisit tech debt.

  10. Overengineering – Technical founding teams often want to “build a rocket ship”. Customers do not care though! Build more iteratively with more proven tools.

  11. Going on-prem – There has been noise by “thought leaders” that companies should move off the cloud. For startups though, the cloud is still the best place to build.

  12. Flood of cloud credits – Credits are being handed out like candy. Truth is though, the vast majority of startups will never use even a fraction of them.

  13. Critics – Many people are going to be dismissive of your startup. It is common for startup founders to be misunderstood, so push through the critics and just build.

  14. Rah-rah speeches – On the flip side, you do not need empty praise and good vibes. People that truly support you will give you both positive and negative feedback.

  15. FOMO – The startup world is noisy with events, funding announcements & big personalities. Drown out the noise and just focus on building an awesome company.

  16. Networking events – We are big believers of networking as a force multiplier, but limit the number of purely networking-oriented events to focus on customers & product.

  17. Alcohol – Startup events are awash with liquor. Give your body and mind a break from the alcohol, it will do wonders for your concentration, productivity & health.

  18. Book recommendations – Books are a great resource and a good escape, but honestly, do you really have time to read books when you are just getting a startup off the ground?

  19. More SaaS tools – SaaS tools are an awesome time saver, but the costs easily add up. Be very careful and intentional about the tools you bring on and the value you get.

  20. Twitter – It can be fun, and for some founders they can build a following there. But “being big on Twitter” is not a business metric that customers or investors care about.

  21. Work-life balance guilt – Startups are hard! There are people that advocate for work-life balance, but the reality is a startup requires all your energy and time to succeed.

  22. Death march culture – While work-life balance is a mirage, you and the team have to get rest. You are simply not productive under a haze of total exhaustion.

  23. Co-CEO’s – Founders sometimes think it is elitist to not share the decision making. This simply makes decision making harder and confuses investors. Have one ultimate decider.

  24. C-level executives – There are only two titles in an early-stage startup that matter, CEO & CTO. Adding executives is a scale function for after product-market fit.

  25. Hiring for pedigree – It seems more desirable to hire people that went to well-known schools or companies, but you are better off hiring for drive, curiosity, and proven execution.

  26. Exotic locations – Coding in paradise is for digital nomads. To build a scalable startup, focus on places where you can hire strong talent and have access to customers.

  27. Moonlighting – Startups come with huge financial risk, so sometimes founders take side gigs. This kills your startup’s momentum though, so be honest if you can’t make the startup work.

  28. Imposter syndrome – One of life’s most humbling experiences is launching a startup. You quickly realize how much you don’t know. We all feel that, so don’t worry.

  29. Shitty laptops – Big companies are fine hamstringing employees with crap hardware. Don’t do that for your startup. Get the best machines so your team can ship faster.

  30. Handshake deals – For any major transaction, sales deals, hiring, partnerships, get it signed in a contract. There’re no excuses, you are building a business.

  31. Big name law firms – The big startup law firms offer big bills, little engagement, and total lack of urgency. Instead work with lawyers that are more invested in your success.

  32. Fake it till you make it – Startups are an exercise in accelerated learning and iterating, so why pretend you got it all worked out? The better path is to learn it till you make it.

  33. Engaging in fraud – There is fake it till you make it, then there is outright lying. Theranos, FTX & Frank gave the startup world a huge blackeye. Don’t be them and stay out of jail.

  34. One bank account – Silicon Valley Bank. Enough said.

  35. Using AI – Just kidding! You should 100% be using AI even if you are not an “AI startup” to code & ship faster, iterate on go-to-market, and automating tasks. Here’s 9 ideas to get started on AI today!

We could probably add a hundred more things, but will stop here for now 😂 But tell us your thoughts and if you strongly agree or disagree with any of the above points. Chat next week!

Mark & Basil

The layoffs across tech continue in 2024 as companies continue to cut costs. From Layoffs.fyi, 37 tech companies have let go over 5,500 workers since Jan 1st. Some recent announcements:

· Google letting go hundreds in hardware & Assistant unit.

· Amazon cuts content creation roles across Audible, Prime Video & Twitch.

· Unity reduces its workforce by 25%, or 1,800 jobs.

· Duolingo cut 10% of its translators due to greater use of AI.

· Discord announced a 17% cut in its workforce, or 170 employees.

· Paytm, the Indian payments company, let go 1,000 staffers, or 10% of the firm.

· Pitch, the German collaborative presentation startup, cut 2/3 of its staff.

While most predictions are that the worst of the tech layoffs are past us, they are unexpected and cut deep when they happen, including hitting high performers.

We shared in a LinkedIn post five practices on how to best prepare when a layoff does occur, things that are good practices for your professional development for any stage of your career:

  1. Keep an “Accomplishment Log” – Did you smash through your goals? Did customers or company leaders shout your praises? Put that in a doc to help you keep track of the awesome things you did. That way it’s easier to transfer over to a promotion doc or resume.

  2. Expand your professional network – We tend to neglect the value of making new connections when we are comfortable in our current role. Dedicate time every month though to attend an event or join a community to meet potentially important connections before you hit the job market.

  3. Always be learning – The best way to stay relevant is to build your skills. This includes new projects at work, your side projects, training classes, or education programs that lead to professional certifications. Anything that is public facing helps bolster your hireability.

  4. Share your insights – Once you have gained a new skill or achieved an accomplishment, be open about sharing that experience. That could be here or other relevant platforms, but people love reading personal stories that inform and expand others knowledge.

  5. Build an industry tracker – Whatever your field or role, whether Fintech or Supply Chain, Sales Ops or AI Developer, keep track of the industry, the key influencers and companies in the space, then follow their updates. When back in the job market, you already know the best companies for you to apply your talents.

Things have been quiet on the community front this month as startups dive into 2024 plans, events gear up, and teams organize for an exciting year ahead.

Mark has been in Vietnam focused on content generation and meeting up with founders. There is a ton of innovation happening here across social commerce, fitness tech, enterprise automation, gaming, and many other sectors!

Connecting and helping startups in Saigon

An interesting fact about Vietnam is that it has one of the largest diaspora populations in the world, about 5 million people. In recent years, a community emerged, Overseas Vietnamese, to connect professionals in this diaspora. Mark will be attending their first Overseas Vietnamese Summit to meet with tech and startup professionals from this community next week to learn what they are building and their views on Vietnam’s future as a tech innovator.

Do you have any upcoming startups events you would like to share? Let us know, we would love to share here with our readers!