21 Lifecycle Tips For Technology Startups

Last week we meet Fred Destin at Techhub. He is a venture capitalist, partner at Atlas Venture, that came to present: “Startup life-cycle: taking your company from idea to maturity“.

What we’ve learnt in just 90 minutes was gold dust. As a result, we’ve worked on the twenty one main takeaways from Fred’s valuable talk and at the end of the post (yes, there’s more!) you can enjoy the full presentation :)  (Thanks geirfaysson.com for the picture)


  1. Pick a co-founder. Single-founder startups are hard to back. Note: Two or three are fine. Four equal co-founders probably means a “disaster”.
  2. Don’t get married too fast. The typical scenario is the tech guy that looks for the business guy and viceversa. Take the time to work together first. Don’t build and scale immediately.
  3. Make sure when you start to have zero fixed costs and that your family understand what you’re getting into. You should expect to dedicate about 10 years of your life to your startup.
  4. “Lawyer-up”: don’t start giving away equity and hiring people if you don’t know what you’re getting into. Get a lawyer ASAP.
  5. Consider “reverse vesting”: Ideally, all co-founders must carry the same weight. However, if this is not the case, for example, in three or maybe four years your partner is no longer with the business or decided to cover much less that he originally committed to, their stock should drop.
  6. Equity is scarce. Use it wisely.
  7. Most of the companies fail not because of their product but because they misunderstood market requirements.
  8. 30% of all code is wasted in unnecessary features.
  9. “Data lives outside the building”: You think you know what the market wants but you’re probably wrong. Instead of coding, take your developer with you and go out see your clients.
  10. Learn and discover before you execute. Don’t ever spend your money until you clearly know what you’re going to achieve with it.
  11. Ignorance is a starting point. You think you know about marketing to users, you probably don’t.
  12. Repeatability is the key. You can build free automated companies.
  13. If you only ever build companies that solve already identified problems, you’re not changing the world.
  14. Google analytics is not “tooling up”. Most of the companies suck at Metrics. If you don’t tool-up early on then it gets worse. You get tons of data you cannot interprete.
  15. 30-million dollar businesses go bust everyday. Getting big revenues is not enough.
  16. Giving too much money to a startup is toxic. It’s very difficult to have a lot of money in your bank account and not be influenced. It takes a lot of maturity in a founder to take her time and not spend a penny until she knows how she’s going to spend it wisely.
  17. Premature scaling is by far the number one cause of startup death.
  18. As a startup you will be fighting organisational obstacles all the time. So, keep your processes and decision making simple and your people engaged.
  19. Recruitment will become your number one issue when you scale.
  20. MVP: bring a Minimum Viable Product early to the market and get contact with users to learn what the market really wants.
  21. Recommended books: “The Four Steps To The Epiphany” by Steven Gary Blank, “The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, “Business Model Generation” by Alex Osterwalder. Follow also VC and  B2B expert David Skok www.forentrepreneurs.com

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