Friday, February 8, 2019

Startup lessons from a Fuckup Night

Last Wednesday, I attended the Fuckup Night Friedrichshafen Vol. II. If you don't know, Fuckup Nights is a global movement and event series dedicated to professional failures. That is, usually founders of failed startups tell their stories. Typically, it is a mix of funny adventures into the world of business, some sad parts and most importantly some lessons learned. So what were the lessons I took away? Read on...

The first lessons came from the co-founder of a data science and analytics company. In the early 2000s they built a product for a single customer and then had trouble acquiring other customers. Their product seemed to be top notch, but they were too small to be vendor for big enterprises. On the other hand, the product only made sense for larger companies. Some of their lessons include:
  • You need to create hype early enough, advertise to be recognised as technology leader,  communicate.
  • Early on clarify and decide on your market and how to sell to it. Will it succeed? Who is going to pay?
The founders later moved on, kept the company afloat and switched from developing a product to selling their expertise as consultants and managing data science and analytics projects.

The second company was founded to build a platform and portal for workout and bodybuilding enthusiasts. After coming up with the idea, the founders looked into how to set up a legal entity, looked at contracts, designed everything needed related to having a corporate identity, and much more. But they forgot something which made up their lessons:
The third speaker built several companies and is successful, but he failed miserably with a huge startup. The idea and the company tanked due to legal changes and he almost lost everything, including the other companies. His lesson was to
  • not invest overagressively and plan too big (they wanted to start with a big splash). 
  • to spend more on due diligence and the "what if".
The above are lessons that can be applied to most projects. It was another mostly interesting and funny evening at a Fuckup Night.

If you have feedback, suggestions, or questions about this post, please reach out to me on Twitter (@data_henrik) or LinkedIn.