6 Common Startup Mistakes from an Agency Perspective

From partnering up with startups and early stage entrepreneurs, we’ve observed common startup mistakes performed by first-time or many-time entrepreneurs. Here’s the top picks.

1. Don’t build mega: Focus on a single trick

The need for focus is what most entrepreneurs seem deaf towards and consequently this often turns out to be their biggest mistake. Don’t seek to solve all thinkable dilemma’s within your field. Zoom in on the core problem, make it your obsession and do everything in your power to solve it well – better than anyone else.

Once you’ve established a product that solves your main problem, address the secondary ideas around your grand objective.

To test if your single trick is strong enough, pitch it to three people and ask them to immediately repeat the pitch to another person. If they stumble or sound hesitant, you’ve failed.

2. Don’t just do it: Ask yourself why

IKEA is here to make home a better place to be. Coca-Cola to inspire moments of happiness and optimism. SpaceX to take mankind to the next level and place a man on Mars.

To qualify whether your idea is big enough to build a product and an organisation around, ask yourself why. Why are you going to be getting up in the morning for the next 5-10 years to work on this? Why will people join your company and work for your vision? Why will the world buy your product and care about your journey?

Too many entrepreneurs don’t consider this one. They’re obsessed with how to work or specifically what their startup will do and they fail to address the grand purpose.

3. Skip the BS: Speak human lingo

Being open and authentic has become an appreciated currency competing against the ever increasing levels of noise. Today’s users and consumers are trained from early on to decode who’s the sender, what’s the message and what’s the  intention. Users need to feel a connection with the story and the product.

This includes the headline they first read on your marketing website, the language used in your promo video, how you phrase the signup button, how much information you lend to the About page. Your language says everything about your company.

4. Forget about perfect: Nail the design and move on

Entrepreneurs involve themselves deeply in the design phase and end up going back and forth, continuously questioning previous decisions.

When it comes to user experience and interface design for early stage startups, it’s about striking the balance between doing what’s required and overdoing it.

On the one hand, sufficient effort is needed to achieve solid architecture, well-considered flows for key actions, and beautifully designed details like typography, color combinations, elements, headers, boxes, etc. On the other hand losing yourself in the design process can stretch the discussion on for months and months.

5. Stop dreaming about organic growth: Plan for acquisition

The #1 concern for VC’s – “how will users be acquired?” – remains largely overlooked by entrepreneurs. Blinded by the brilliance of the idea, many founders don’t consider acquisition early enough and fail to build growth triggers into the product.

They expect viral effects to happen, journalists to magically pick up the story and marketing to be ad hoc funded along the way.

In most cases, the acquisition method proves to be much more critical than the core idea. With 500,000 permissions, you can always pivot further down the road and sustain your audience.

6. Don’t mess up sign-up: Make users love you at first sight

You’ll never have a second chance to make a first impression – this certainly goes for digital products and services. With the first sign-on, the user should complete a taste profile to inform the platform and enrich the dashboard.

Blank pages are forbidden, error messages equally so, and where possible welcoming text should take the user’s hand and guide them through.

If the first visit fails, it’s unlikely the user will open the service again and the chances of recommendations being circulated will drop. Upon launching, test all thinkable scenarios. A diagram of user journeys is required, apart from having all possible devices, browser versions and hardware options at disposal.


Founder, Managing Director