14 things I will do differently in my next startup

• 4 min read

We are in a great place now. Incredible team and all the numbers are going UP! But during 5 years, I've made a bunch of mistakes that delayed our growth.

Go ahead, learn from them.

1. Hunger

We started sales early, got initial traction that allowed me to hire a team. But then I got comfortable, distracted by unimportant things. We stagnated for over a year. You should always be hungry for growth!

2. Funding

At year 2 we were not in a good place and took funding: $60k for 17% equity—horrible move. I could close a few clients or do consult work and get the same cash.

Giving up equity in the early stages is very expensive. Try to delay it for as long as you can.

3. Technical co-founder

I started as a solo non-tech founder. It was very unsettling without such expertise. I invited Anvar at the end of year 3, and the growth just went up since. Here is a short guide on how to hire a CTO.

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4. Hiring

Early hires are crucial, and I messed it up a few times. I optimized for speed and salary and didn't pay much attention to their soft skills.

Spend a lot of time with them, maybe even work part-time before hiring.

Early employees will be jacks of all trades. Hire curious underrated people with obvious potential. We hired a copywriter with no copywriting experience and paid 2x the salary we could afford.

But we saw a huge potential. Now she is the best CMO we could ever find.

The team is a more significant asset than clients and investors COMBINED. When hiring, sell them your vision. Offer them potential they can't get in the corporation. During work, celebrate every little win. Give them all the credit and take all the blame on yourself.

5. Audience

Building an audience or community > paid acquisition.

I just started building in public, and WOW, it's so incredible to get that much attention.

Attention = inbound clients, partners, investors. Get on that Twitter and build your network!

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Building your own audience is hard. Start from being active in other communities.

SPAM and FRAUD are your worst enemies in all the channels. Be genuine, helpful, feedback, and you will get a lot of attention.

6. Marketing.

My path:

  1. didn't do any marketing - no growth
  2. hired an agency - no growth
  3. became a marketer - 4x growth in 1 year

Skip steps 1 and 2

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For over a year, content marketing Quora brought us 80%+ new leads, and we could not find other channels.

This was a nightmare. What if Quora bans me or anything else? Then we are done!

Now we are diversified

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7. Agencies.

We hired 2 agencies (PPC and SEO) in the early days. Wasted around $50k a bunch of time and got close to no results.

Then we did the same work ourselves, and everything worked. Do the math.

8. Influences.

I discovered this in year 5, but the founder must be the startup's biggest influencer. With almost no following, I get a lot of attention.

Imagine if I started this from day 1

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9. Mentorship

Peers > Mentors.

I joined a mastermind group last year, and this was a significant shift for me. Surround yourself with peers on ~ the same level. You will get support and a lot of insights.

10. Feedback

Through I delegated most of the functions, I got isolated from clients. No feedback - you are blind.

For 2 years, I tried to target the wrong customers even though they brought us 10% of revenue. Talk to clients on a weekly basis!

11. Delegation

When I started a company, I was doing everything. With the first hires, I micromanaged, completed their tasks instead of giving frameworks.

The better way to do it

  • create docs how to do the role and spend a lot of time onboarding
  • trust their decisions and let them make mistakes

12. Transparency.

It's hard to switch from a small team mindset. The bigger the team got, the less there was understanding what is happening. I didn't hear the feedback, and it slowed us down.

This helped:

  • OKR’s
  • 1on1’s
  • personal weekly planning. email sent to everyone

13. Priorities

Everyone says you need to prioritize. But picking what to work on is easier than saying NO to things.

Biggest example - conferences. In year 1 I exhibited on WebSumit. $3k + 1 week = no result.

So many things I had to say no to.

14. Stress ≠ success.

I was miserable for 3 years. Worked overtime, didn't sleep well, didn't exercise, and productivity was

Now I take care of my mental and fiscal heals, feel much better, work less, and accomplish much more.

If you liked this article, please, share it with your peers on Twitter.

← *Non-Obvious* Lessons From My First 32 Hires
Building in public WORKS →

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