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Start-up Advice

18 Start-up Mistakes Everyone Should Know About

Avoid these 18 common start-up mistakes on your way to business success.

Nicole Crampton




Give your start-up the best chance it has by following these guidelines. Make sure you’ve avoided all these 18 common mistakes before launching your start-up or you could set your business up for failure before you’ve even gotten off the ground.

Single Founder

Get through all the work yourself is tough and you need someone to brainstorm with. Partners can talk you out of stupid decisions and keep your spirits up. Start-ups have very low, lows. Multiple founders will bind you all together and keep your enthusiasm, determination and motivation levels high

Bad Location

Specific cities have prosperous start-ups because they have:

  • Higher standards
  • The type of people you want working for you, want to live there.
  • Supporting industries
  • Concentrated industry experts

These all contribute to the success of start-ups and when they’re missing the failing of start-ups.

Marginal Niche

Don’t choose a small, obscure niche market to avoid having competition. Every good idea you come up with will most likely already have competition or could potentially have competition. You can only avoid competition by having bad ideas. Smaller ideas may seem safer but they won’t get you the success you’re looking for.

Derivative Idea

Majority of successful start-ups haven’t imitated someone else’s idea. Their ideas came from specific, unsolved problems they either identified or had personal experience with.

Pivoting May Be a Necessity

You’re going to receive unexpected feedback. Don’t give up and don’t ignore it. Use the feedback to inspire you to change your business model which could help you avoid failure. Many successful businesses had to change course along the way.

6. Hiring Bad Programmers

Bad programmers will slow down your progress. Check that your programmer can do what he says he can do.  Hiring or partnering with a good programmer could help you hire experienced programmers.

Choosing the Wrong Marketing Platform

A platform that looks respectable and fine from the outside could destroy your start-up. Give your programmer the choice. A useful trick: See which one they’re using at a top computer science department for their research projects.

8. Slow to Launch

This only works if it’s a strategic and stealthy launch. Don’t spend ages in development. Rather get your most valuable product developed and release it. Then you can see how your potential customers will react. Don’t overdevelop, hundreds of features won’t keep your start-up afloat.

Launching too Early

You can ruin your reputation by launching too early. If people try out your product and it’s not good they won’t try it again. Your newly launched product doesn’t have to be perfect it just has to do something.

10. No Specific User in Mind

Test what you have with your target market. Don’t rely on your intuition. Talk your target market into using your products, if you can’t you’re on the wrong track.

Raising too Little Money

Getting investors to invest in your business is a good strategic bet. You need to take enough to advance you to the next step, like a working prototype or significant growth. Set your expenditure low and your first goal, simple, this will give you maximum flexibility.

Spending too Much

Spend your start-up funds wisely. Invest in exceptional people and quality products. This will work in your favour long-term. Be strategic and balanced with your spending.

Raising too Much Money

Large investments have drawbacks:

  • Time to negotiate, companies are cautious when investing
  • It requires you to employ more people and rent office space – once here you can’t easily change course
  • Managing your employees and the office politics which follows
  • Your employees aren’t founders, they won’t be as committed.

Don’t bargain hunt between investors. An offer from a reputable firm, at a realistic valuation with no abnormally tedious terms, is a good bet.

Poor Investor Management

Listen to your investors useful insights. Don’t allow them to run your company. An example of investors making trouble with successful companies can be Apple, whose board nearly fired Steve Jobs in the early days. Even Google had issues with investors when they started out.

15. Sacrificing Users for (Supposed) Profit

Develop your product and your business model with a customer’s come-first approach. Focus on a sustainable business and not only on making money. Create this by having happy, devoted and long-term customers.

Don’t Want to Get Your Hands Dirty

Spend half your time developing your product and the other half talking to executives and arranging deals. Companies won’t buy a product if there is no tangible proof that it will be successful. Grow a user base to make your product more attractive to acquirers.

17. Fights between Founders

Majority of the disputes are personality clashes. Don’t start a company with someone you dislike or because you didn’t want to leave someone out. The people involved are the most important ingredients, don’t compromise here.

A Half-Hearted Effort

The biggest mistake you can make is not trying hard enough. The common type of failure is not the one that makes a spectacular flameout, but the one we never even heard of that never really went anywhere and was gradually abandoned.

Mistakes will be an unavoidable part of the start-up process. That doesn’t mean you should repeat everyone else’s mistakes.

18-Mistakes-That-Kill-StartupsThis infographic was visualised by Mark Vital for

Related: (Infographic) Say YES to More Success

Nicole Crampton is an online writer for Entrepreneur Magazine. She has studied a BA Journalism at Monash South Africa. Nicole has also completed several courses in writing and online marketing.

Start-up Advice

Put On Your Wellies: It’s Time To Wade Into Risk

Entrepreneurs aren’t all leaping into the unknown like lemmings off a cliff, but they do need to consider it…

Chris Ogden




You’ve had a great idea. You’ve looked into its development. You’ve recognised that it has potential beyond just what Auntie Mabel and Mike From The Grocer think. And you’ve clearly nailed a pain point that can make money. Now it is time to take the risk of running with it.

Every big idea comes with risk. You can’t step out into the world of entrepreneurial thinking and business development without it. Your idea may fail. It will also be time consuming, demanding, hungry for money, and hard work. It is unrealistic to expect that your project will leap out into the world and be an unmitigated success.

It is also unrealistic to assume that it isn’t worth taking this risk.

There are steps that you can follow to ensure that your risk is managed so you aren’t blindly leaping off that cliff…

Step 01: Do your research

No, canvassing your neighbours, friends and family is not doing research. You need to know that your idea will appeal to a broad market and that it will have significant legs. This may sound like daft advice, but you would be surprised how many people think an idea will take off just because Susan in Accounting said so.

Step 02: Understand the costs

Projects are hungry for money and investment. Realistically work out your budgets and how much it will cost to take your project off the ground and then stick to it.

A calculated risk is a far better bet than one that shoots from the hip and hopes for the best. You can also use this as an opportunity to draw a clear line under where you will stop investing and end the project. If it keeps eating money and isn’t getting anywhere with results you need to be able to walk away.

Step 03: Know when to walk away

As mentioned before, this can be defined by a line you’ve drawn in the proverbial sand (and budget) but no matter where you draw this line, you have to stick to it. Often, when time, money and energy have been poured into a project it can be incredibly hard to walk away.

You think ‘but I have put so much into this, just one more’ and then it gets to a point where the ‘just one more’ has taken you so far down the line that walking away feels impossible. Leave. Learn the lessons. Apply them to your next project.

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Start-up Advice

Mind The Gap

The entrepreneur’s guide to finding the gaps and building the right solutions.

Chris Ogden




Innovation may very well be the key to business success but finding the gap into which your innovative thinking can fit is often a lot harder than people realise. Some may be struck by inspiration in the shower, others by that moment of blinding insight in a meeting, however, for most people finding that big idea isn’t that simple. They want to be an entrepreneur and start their own high-growth business, but they need some ideas on how to find that big idea.

Here are five…

1. Network

It sounds trite but networking is actually an excellent way of picking up on patterns and trends in conversation and business problems. The trick is to note them down and pay attention. Soon, you will find patterns emerging and ideas forming.

2. Look for pain

Just as networking can reveal trends in the market, so can spending time reading. The latter will also help you find common business pain points. These are the touchpoints that frustrate people, annoy business owners, affect productivity, or impact employee engagement.

Be the Panado that fixes these pains.

3. Luck


This is probably the most annoying of the ideas, but it is unfortunately (or fortunately) very true. Luck does play a role in helping you capture that big idea. However, luck isn’t just standing around and random people offering you opportunities. Luck is found at networking events, it is found in research and it is found in conversations with other entrepreneurs.

4. Luck needs courage

You may have found the big idea through your network, a pain point or pure blind luck, but if you don’t have the courage to take it and run with it, you will lose it to someone else.

Being bold in business is highly underrated because most people assume that everyone is bold and prepared to take big leaps into the unknown. However, not all brilliant entrepreneurs were ready to throw their family funds to the wind and leap into an idea – they were courageous enough to figure out a way of harnessing their ideas realistically.

5. Pay attention

This is probably one of the most vital ways of finding a gap in the market. Often, people are so busy that they don’t really pay attention to that niggling issue that always bothers them on a commute, or in a mall, or at a meeting. This niggling issue could very well be the next big business opportunity. Pay attention to it and find out if that issue can be solved with your innovative thinking.

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Start-up Advice

5 Things To Know About Your “Toddler” Business

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind.

Catherine Black




Ah, toddlers. Those irresistible bundles of joy bring a huge amount of energy, curiosity and fun to any family – but there’s also frustration and worry that comes with their unpredictability, as they grow and start to become more independent. If you own a business and it’s successfully past its “infancy” of the first year or so, it’s likely it will also go through a toddler stage of its lifecycle.

Pete Hammond, founder of luxury safari company SafariScapes, agrees with this. “Our business is now three and a half years old, and we’ve found that we’re not yet big enough to justify employing a large team of people to handle the day-to-day admin tasks, yet we still need to grow the business as well,” he says. “As a result, our main challenge is finding the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like when you are raising a busy toddler and you spend most of your time running after them!”

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind:

1. This too shall pass

Everything in life is temporary – and that goes for both the good and the bad. It’s as helpful to remember this when you’re facing the might of a toddler temper tantrum, as it is when you’re facing throws of uncertainty in your business. If your new(ish) venture is going through a rough patch in its first few years, it can be easy to think about giving up – but don’t. As long as you have an overall big idea that you believe can add value to your customers, keep pushing through the rough parts until you come out the other side.

2. Appreciate what this phase brings

The toddler years mean that the initial newborn joy is officially behind you. But these small humans also bring their own kinds of joy, as you watch them learn new skills, say funny things, and give affection back to you. While your two-year-old business may not hold the same exhilaration for you as it did during those first few months, there are now different things to appreciate about it: Maybe you’re expanding your product range, or employing new people who can take the workload off you.

3. Establish boundaries

Toddlers thrive on boundary and routine – and your toddler business will too. As it grows into a new phase, try and establish limits in terms of the type of clients you want to work with and the type of work you’ll do. It’s also a good idea to make a decision about the hours you’ll work and when you’ll switch off, which will help you establish a good work-life balance.

4. Take a break

Every parent with a toddler needs a break every now and then, even if that means a walk around the block (on your own!), a dinner out with friends, or even a few days away. The same is true for a demanding small business: every so often, remember to take time out to rest properly, where you switch off your laptop and completely unplug. You’ll return much more inspired and resilient to deal with the everyday uncertainty that it brings.

5. Give it space to make mistakes

While the unpredictability of a young business can be stressful and tiring, it’s also a time for trying new things without the risk of huge consequences if they don’t quite work. After all, it’s much simpler to change your USP if you’re a small business employing a few people, rather than a big company where 50 people are relying on you for their salary, or where you’ve received a huge amount of investment capital. While you may fail in some of the things you try with your business (in fact, this is almost guaranteed), see it as a toddler that’s resilient enough to pick itself up, dust its knees and keep moving forward.

During this phase of business growth it’s also essential to have the right type of medical aid cover. There are medical schemes such as Fedhealth which has a number of medical aid options and value-added benefits to ensure that your health and wellness is taken care of too. After all, the healthier you and your staff are, the more productive your business will be – during the toddler (business) stage and beyond.

While this phase can be frustrating, it’s a sign that your business is growing and adapting, rather than remaining in its infancy, and that can only be a good thing! So embrace the difficulties, learn from them, and watch as your business strides forward confidently into the next exciting phase.

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