20 Lessons from my First Year in Startups

Techie Tuesdays: One year after leaving my 9-to-5 job and joining Cliquidity, I reflect on the lessons I have learnt about the industry and myself.

  1. Your friends will think working from home means you are always free for lunch – because “you aren’t really working, #amirite?” Wrong.
  2. You will work more hours a day than if you were still at your 9-to-5, and that still won’t feel like enough. There is never enough time when it comes to startups – faster, faster, faster.
  3. Wearing pyjamas all day gets old. Fast.
  4. Announcing the launch of your beta will NOT automatically drive traffic to your site. No matter how nicely you ask. Most people do not know what a beta is.
  5. Explainer videos CANNOT be longer than 90 seconds – how is anyone supposed to concentrate on one webpage that long!!!
  6. Problem. Solution. Benefits/ Features. Concerns. CTA. Do it!
  7. It is absolutely pointless spending any amount of time trying to formulate an intelligent status to post on Facebook when a world of cat videos and “Keep Calm” posters will always get more likes.
  8. If you are forced to write a status, putting “Click Like” at the beginning of the status somehow always results in more likes.
  9. Don’t try to grow your Facebook page through your existing circle of friends – no one knows how to “share” anything until the new Kony video comes out. Then they manage to figure it out.
  10. Spending money on Facebook advertising is like spending money on a penis enlargement – sure you feel better (cos you have more Facebook fans/ a bigger penis) but you still have no conversion (sales/ sex). It is better to buy youtube views.
  11. The South African startup space is so small. Entering any startup contest is likely to make you a finalist. But hey, there is no such thing as bad press?
  12. Always be Pitching. Always. Be. Pitching.
  13. Startup workshops are great for networking but there is nothing any generic slide show can teach you about your business that you don’t already know. Trust your gut.
  14. Graphic designers make graphic design look way too easy – you try come up with a mockup by yourself and see how easy that is. It’s not.
  15. The international startup space is so big. Do not believe for one second you are the first person to have your idea. The trick is to accept that there are others just like you and then to make sure your product is better. (Or at least marketed better).
  16. Tech conferences are great for networking but unless you have a very tangible strategy to get media coverage/ meeting investors, you will just end up socialising with other startup entrepreneurs, and seeing products infinitely cooler than yours. #realitycheck
  17. The fact that you exist is not news. But if you exist in SA and have some form of international validation, that is news.
  18. Ironically the WI-FI will not work at the Web Summit.
  19. When bringing investors on board to chat about potential funding – rent a meeting room. It looks more professional, and is an inexpensive way to double the likelihood of getting funding by projecting an organized business.
  20. And above all else: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett.