One Man Shares Startup Advice to Himself 5 Years Ago

April 10, 2015

5:00 pm

For those who have been in the startup game for a few years, what would you give to be able to go back and share some startup advice with yourself before you got into startups? What have you learned working in the startup world that you desperately wish you would have known before your risked it all to jump head first into this land of “growth hackers”, “unicorns”, and “bootstrappers”? One man did precisely just that – not literally, of course, because time Timey Wimey time travel hasn’t been invented, yet – in a blog post titled “What I’d tell myself about startups if I could go back 5 years.”

The post was written by Ben Dixon, a senior developer and back-end lead at Active In Time, the mobile development company that’s created products like the Speedo Fit swimming app. The blog post was written with the intention of sharing some advice he would give himself about startups if he got the opportunity to talk to himself before he got involved with startups (which happened to be five years ago). “This is, in no particular order, what I’d tell myself about startups if I could go back in time to when I first got involved. Which is probably the same as what I’ve learned,” writes Dixon.

While Dixon writes that the post is not meant as advice, the points he lays out for 2010 Ben Dixon are certainly good pieces of advice that can apply to many people involved in startups. And many other people agree. Posted on both Hacker News and various different subReddits (in particular, r/entrepreneur), the blog post has garnered some of the highest upvotes both sites have seen in recent times; on Hacker News, the post has more than 800 points, while on r/entrepreneur, it has managed to get enough upvotes to become the number 1 top post in the subReddit.

You can read the full post yourself at Dixon’s blog, where he shares a total of 63 pieces of knowledge he would share with the 2010 version of himself. We’ve listed 12 of them below:

  1. You’re definitely going to end up building too much and shipping too late. Be obsessive about avoiding this.
  2. It’s really easy to become hyper-critical and respond to every idea with “yeah but that won’t work because of x”. This is lazy, don’t do it.
  3. A good developer can pick up any language or platform in a few weeks.
  4. Make something people want is probably a less useful heuristic than make something you want.
  5. Get good at saying no to things, from people asking you for discounts to interesting projects you really don’t have enough time for.
  6. If you end up pitching to someone over coffee, ask to hear their pitch afterwards.
  7. No-one has ever used a Bitcoin ATM for practical reasons.
  8. Trying to raise money and apply to accelerators is a full time job. You’re probably either building or fund raising. Not both. If in doubt, choose building.
  9. Facebook is the Facebook for X.
  10. That was not “your idea” unless you shipped something, otherwise I invented Facebook, Nest and Oculus Rift.
  11. Being friends with somebody is not the same as being able to work well with them.
  12. Talk to everybody.

Read Ben Dixon’s startup advice in his post “What I’d tell myself about startups if I could go back 5 years.”

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Ronald Barba was the previous managing editor of Tech.Co. His primary story interests include industry trends, consumer-facing apps/products, the startup lifestyle, business ethics, diversity in tech, and what-is-this-bullsh*t things. Aside from writing about startups and entrepreneurship, Ronald is interested in 'Doctor Who', Murakami, 'The Mindy Project', and fried chicken. He is currently based in New York because he mistakenly studied philosophy in college and is now a "writer". Tweet @RonaldPBarba.

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