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(Jaroslaw Baczewski)
(Jaroslaw Baczewski)

Startups: Beware the seven deadly sins Add to ...

The Seven Deadly Sins date back to ancient times, but they may strike at today’s high-flying startups. Consultant Mike Figliuolo, on his ThoughtLeaders blog, says many entrepreneurs fail because of self-inflicted wounds that can be traced back to lust, gluttony, greed, and the other deadly sins:


Trying to add the sexiest bells and whistles – and even cleanest HTML code – to your product may distract you from producing a solid product. Stick with the basics, Mr. Figliuolo advises.

(This is probably an easier trap to fall into, of course, in the wake of all the publicity for Steve Jobs and the elegant products he built that were beautiful even under the hood. But he did strip things down to what he considered essential.)


Entrepreneurs often live on a starvation diet, but when the cash comes in from a venture capitalist or angel, they can go overboard, building plush offices and buying non-essential goodies.

“Buying stuff just because you have cash will burn your business down to the ground,” Mr. Figliuolo writes. Burn rate, of course, is the term for how much a business is spending, and he says you need to be acutely aware of how you’re faring. If you add people, be prepared to get rid of a similar number of others if your burn rate is beyond your capability.


Mr. Figliuolo has seen businesses destroyed because the entrepreneurs were more focused on making money for themselves than building a solid company.

Avoid being stingy when it comes to putting together your team. You may want to own 100 per cent of your business, but it will be 100 per cent of nothing unless you bring the right people on board. And that may mean giving them equity as an inducement. You will own less (in percentage terms) of more, by discarding your greed.


Keep working hard, even when it seems as if you can slow down a bit.

“If you’re not out there hustling 148 per cent of the time, you’re probably going to fail,” he warns.


When things go wrong, don’t lash out at the customer, supplier, investor, or staff member who seems the source of the frustration. In an era of social media, it will spread, and boomerang on you.

“Check that rage or you’re going to get it back in spades,” Mr. Figliuolo says.


When other entrepreneurs succeed, don’t fall prey to jealousy. It’s too easy to succumb to the feeling that they don’t deserve what you can’t get at this point. Be open-minded, send them a congratulatory note, and don’t send off negative vibes to others.

“If you’re always running around bad-mouthing others who are successful, you begin building a lousy personal brand. Karma is always watching you,” he notes.


Don’t believe your business is so wonderful that nobody can match you, Mr. Figliuolo advises. Pride, after all, comes before the fall.

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