Are You in the Wrong Startup?

As a lawyer and mentor, I often meet entrepreneurs only to realize, within minutes of talking, that they simply are not going to make it. This has nothing to do with how talented, nice, and engaging these people are. It has everything to do with the fact that they are in the wrong startup. The passion, the motivation, even the skills and experience—they are all there. They just not right for this particular ride.

The chances of seeing your startup through to a glorious exit, or even of getting the funding you need to stay afloat, are different depending on the type of startup. Whether you are developing a fun social app or an electronic gadget, different startups require different sets of skills, levels of experience, and style of entrepreneurship.

As most people in the industry now realize, age is a factor by itself. Nothing beats experience. I have recently met with a team of very young entrepreneurs, all aged 23 to 25. They were planning to develop a new kind of hearing aid, a noble cause that immediately caught my attention. To my disappointment, they were convinced that the biggest obstacle they need to overcome is the software. Experienced entrepreneurs will know how unrealistic this expectation is.

Trying to develop and commercialize an entirely new product in the health sector, especially one that combines software and hardware, is asking for trouble. The regulation issues alone are enough to bring even the most optimistic and hard-working entrepreneur to his or her knees. And regulation is just the tip of the iceberg of course. In Jerry Seinfeld’s famous words, “I get enough headaches just trying to manufacture the stuff.”

What many entrepreneurs are unaware of, is that the startup ecosystem is rapidly maturing. Most investors have already lost at least a few of their investments after betting on the wrong startup or, more accurately, the wrong team. They have learned their lessons and they will probably not repeat their mistakes. No serious investor would even consider backing a team that doesn’t have the experience, knowledge, and skills necessary to accomplish exactly what the startup they are pitching is meant to do.

When you decide to join a startup, or start your own, make sure your team is up for the task. Don’t assume you’ll be OK if you just outsource everything. 99% of the time it simply doesn’t work. It is great to follow your dreams, but try to follow the ones you can make into a reality. Remember, software is (usually) easier than hardware. Social is (usually) easier than cyber or artificial intelligence. Unregulated industries are (always) easier than regulated fields like gambling, investments, health or real estate.

Another way to look at this issue is comparing entrepreneurship to other, more “traditional” professions. There are resident doctors, attending doctors, and world-class medical specialists. Same as with lawyers, developers, teachers. Why should it be any different with entrepreneurs? Don’t let your ego get the best of you. Being the one that came up with the next brilliant idea does not mean you are the person to make it happen.