16 early stage startup commandments

By Shaun Symm, June 22, 2018
Sign with the words Please stay on the path

I overheard a conversation this week between two founders in Sydney's Startup Hub, who are going through an accelerator program, that inspired this list of startup commandments for early stage startups.

While some may be obvious, the conversation I overheard proved that they're certainly not known by all.

Regardless of whether these commandments are obvious to you or not, they serve as a constant reminder to get back to basics and start your startup journey in the best possible way.

In no particular order ...

  1. Solve a big hairy painful problem. No vitamins, just painkillers. Customers usually only pay for products that solve big problems.

  2. Know your competitors. There's always competition. Do competitor research. Find out who they are, what they do, how they do it and what their distribution model is.

  3. Do things that don’t scale (if you don't know what this is read the classic Paul Graham post).

  4. Find communities and join the conversation. You need to be part of your target audiences conversation. If the conversation is happening, find it and be part of it.

  5. Know your ambition. Are you planning a lifestyle business or do you want to be a unicorn? The psychology is very different so be honest with yourself.

  6. Find customers. Investment isn’t an early stage goal. Finding paying customers is. There is a 'right time' to seek investment in your startup.

  7. Be lean. No, even leaner. Develop less (and this from a company that develops startups). Listen more. Get customers to tell you what to develop.

  8. Don’t worry about scale, yet.

  9. Know your target audience intimately. Understand the world from your customers point of view.

  10. Be 10x better, not just different. If the solution already exists, especially when made by 1 or 2 dominant players in the market, then your product must be 10x better. Not just different.

  11. Work hard, and be dogged.

  12. Have founder market fit. Are you the right founder to chase this opportunity in this market?

  13. Have passion for the problem you're solving. It's a long game so you need to be passionate about the product, the problem and the market.

  14. Have a thirst for knowledge and learning.

  15. Have integrity.

  16. Have fun.

Photo by: Mark Duffel

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