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How To Be a Successful Startup Founder



Maybe you’re fresh-faced out of college, and your bright-eyed hopes have been dimmed by news reports of a bad job market and by watching your friends struggle to pay rent. You have a degree – maybe even in business, though perhaps not – but you don’t know what to do with it. So you decide to start a company.


Maybe as a kid you had the most successful lemonade stand in town, and dreamed of one day owning your own company. Now’s finally that time you always knew was coming.


Or maybe it just hit you one day, a giant “Eureka!” moment, and you just knew that you have the next big thing. How could you pass the opportunity up?


But the question is – how do you pull it off? How can you be a successful startup founder when so many others have failed?


Well, before anything else, don’t be that first guy.


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1. Start a company because you’re passionate about something.

No one can blame the generation that got the short end of the stick in the job market for trying to find an alternate path (seriously, just look at the unemployment rates for 20-34 year olds). But successful entrepreneurs seem to agree on a key point: starting a company for any reason other than sincere passion is a recipe for failure.


Be realistic and self-aware. Examine your motivations. If money and being your own boss are main motivations, do not pass go. If you have a sincere passion for what you want to do, dive in. Achieving success in the startup world takes tenacity, and if you’re not doing it for the right reasons, it may be hard to find the strength to persevere.





Pssst – when it comes to figuring out which thing you’re passionate about so you can try to make it into a career, try making a list of “What I love” vs. “What I’m good at.” Where there’s overlap, there’s potential. Part of this process is being honest with yourself about what you’re actually good at.


2. Be in it for the long haul.

Successful entrepreneurs have often launched several small, insignificant ventures before they finally strike gold. William Channer calls this, “the Kindergarten Startup,” and points out the necessity of failure before success.


Maybe that’s why the average successful founder is 40?


Regardless, don’t expect a get-rich-quick situation. It might shake out like that, but it’s more likely to require some time and elbow grease. Make sure your expectations are realistic.


3. Sell a product people want to buy.

Keep it simple. Make sure it’s innovative, it solves a problem your customers have, the customer has the budget for it, and it’s easy to explain why your product is better than the competition. On top of all that, obsess over quality. And the little trick for helping you with #1? Totally applies here, too.


4. Build the right team.

Let go of that image of the lone hero entrepreneur. It’s outdated, if it existed at all. To successfully launch a startup, you’ll need to cover two bases: technology and business. You can go with one person for each of those, or you could have someone for sales, someone for operations, and someone for technology. When you’re choosing your new business partners, pick people you share values with, and start by looking at friends, friends of friends, and people you met while networking.




5. Fit your operating style – and your business plan – to the opportunity.

Are you a bootstrapped startup, or are you blessed with investors lining up for miles? Either way, work with what you have. Your strategy will be different depending on if you have beaucoup bucks or are broke as a joke, so be realistic about the financial factor.


Looking for more advice? Check out Stanford’s free online startup courses or one of MIT’s many free online entrepreneurship courses.


For some killer quick tips on founding a startup, click here.


Photo Credits

pakorn | 89studio | Stuart Miles |

Author : Kae Burdo

Kae Burdo is a freelance writer, alt. sex(uality) & relationship educator, and event planner. With over a decade of writing experience, their passions are international politics, the vast range of human sexuality, issues relating to intersectional feminism, and technology and startups. Follow them on twitter @kaeburdo.

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