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Back to Basics

Every so often your startup will grab you by the throat and drag you into a tough, complex, or plainly weird corner. When that happens I like to remind myself that at their core, startups are simple. The best reminder? Going back to startup basics and first principles.

Below are my favorite ones.


The goal is to add value to the world. Customers, revenues, growth, funding, fame, and getting rich are nice by-products.

You are bounded by the problem you’re solving. Pick the biggest, scariest, ugliest, nastiest problem you can find.


Perhaps you started it, but others will create 99.99% of it. Your people are the most important thing.

Nothing about your startup is unique, aside from its purpose.

The journey is not the purpose but is as important.

Execution is often the reason for both success and failure.


User experience is the actual experience a real human is having using your product right now.

You’ve got a “solution” only when the person who had the problem no longer has it.

Users come back because it’s worth it to come back.

The world doesn’t see the “insides” of your company, know your future plans, or care about any excuses.


Marketing is finding a person who should be your customer and telling the story that closes the gap.

To sell is to give what you have to someone who needs what you have. To sell well is to fully believe that that’s what you’re doing, and charge top dollars for it.

Growth is the result of having something that many people need and a distribution system. In that order.


A business that doesn’t create net positive value and net positive dollars is a ticking time bomb.

Bad unit economics scale to bankruptcy.

Any boundary between sales, marketing, customer service, product, design, and engineering is an artificial one.

Money is an accelerator but never a solution. Same for tools, technology, and consultants.

The short term is nothing but an intermediate step towards the long term. Efficiency is a mere servant of effectiveness. Urgent is the Important gone stale. Durability trumps growth.


Your startup doesn’t fail until you give up. To not give up, start from an honest intrinsic drive and stick to it.

Yes, it’s supposed to be this hard. Be proud and be positive.


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