Here’s my list. Admittedly, much is obvious on it:

  • Founders can’t work together, and/or are dysfunctional. It’s over, at least eventually, if you don’t make a change. Best case, one of you has to go.
  • It’s “do or die” on some — or any — specific feature, launch date, hire. It’s always do or die, to some extent. But if the founders are truly committed. You pick yourself up off the floor — no matter what. And you keep going. If anyone on the founding team is willing to quit, to call it a day, if something doesn’t “work” soon … your odds of success are very low.
  • Optionality. If the founders keep working on another business. If they’re going back in a year if it doesn’t work out. You won’t get there.
  • You need an insane amount of capital in the early days. This does happen. Sometimes you get the idea right, and even get the initial customers. But it turns out you need an insane amount of capital to pull it off.
  • You’re too worried about the competition. You should be paranoid, yes. But if a founder is too worried about the competition — if you feel like one press release, one Product Hunt, and it’s over — he isn’t going to go the distance. There is always competition. Great teams find a way to navigate it.
  • You can’t hire who you need. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, 10,000 others start-ups are hiring. But you have to find a way. If you can’t hire the folks you need in engineering, sales, marketing, product, customer succcess, etc. You can’t do it. Go work for someone else instead. This is probably ultimately the #1 sign you are in trouble. It can also be one of the hardest to see from the outside. It’s a slow burn to failure.

Note almost all of this can be fixed. If you want it badly enough.

A little more here:…


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