1. Ross D. Blankenship, Founding Partner and CEO, AngelKings.com:
“The number one reason why most start-ups fail:
We’re “the Airbnb for …”
…..”the Uber for…”
…. “the Facebook for…”
Stop cloning other people – be yourself – be great.
As an investor in 60+ companies, I’ve seen way too many startups fail because they wanted to be something else, instead of just being themselves.
It’s sad to see many talent engineers, hackers and hustlers from Silicon Valley, NYC to Washington DC, squander precious time building a company that’s doomed from the start. Your vision should be your own.”
Spend less time cloning others and more time being inimitable, ineffable, and incredible.
2. Josh Bob, Founder of a SaaS startup (sold 2013):
“Almost anything selling technology into restaurants will likely fail – particularly if it solves a problem for diners as opposed to owners (or managers).
Most people who start such a company are attempting to “scratch their own itch,” which means they have limited experience with and more than a few opinions about what it takes to run a restaurant.
Couple this with a complete lack of concept about the scope of selling to restaurants – how many salespeople you truly need, because sales to restaurants are heavily skewed toward in-person relationship building – and you get a recipe for disaster (by which I mean slow, agonizing failure).”
3. Lee Semel, Entrepreneur, photographer and software engineer in New York.
- Anything that makes programming “easy for non-programmers or businesspeople”
- T-Shirts (except Threadless (and Busted Tees … thanks ))
- Recommendations based on what your friends like
- RSS readers, or more generally, sites focused primarily on presenting and formatting news stories gleaned from 3rd party sources
- Customized personalized newspapers focusing on mainstream news (as opposed to niche industry news with high business value)
- Find nearby people to meet/date through your mobile phone
- Anything involving paying people to look at ads
- Sites that purport to measure someone’s trustworthiness as a standalone service, separate from any other context or functionality
- Craigslist killers – but not sites that attack individual categories on Craigslist (see diagram in this question’s summary)
- To-do lists – there are tons of these, but everyone’s workflow tends to be so personalized and specific to that person that none of them really catch on
- Most blogs that are started with the intent of being businesses
- Business that let consumers scan some kind of code, number or barcode in real life, with some special device, or lately their phone, and they get sent a URL, ad or coupon in return.
This isn’t to say that these are terrible ideas perpetually destined to fail, rather that they are commonly attempted ideas, that been tried many times, and fail frequently.”
4. Terrence Yang, Mentor, Investor, Co-founder – multiple startups.
“Ideas that founders fall in love with. This is probably over 98% of ideas. Some are so bad they never even make it to AngelList or just languish there with zero investment. Why does Paul Graham of Y Combinator say “Make something people want” instead of “Make something you think people want” or “Execute well against a business plan”? Because most founders can’t read the minds of users and customers. They can guess, but they are often wrong. To figure out what users want quickly, you have to focus on coding, shipping, testing your product with users and iterating based on what they are telling you. The best information is generally from user’s actual behavior and nonverbal facial expressions.”
5. Dharmesh Shah,
“Tools that deliver personalized news.”