When I was making the leap into the startup world I read every post I came across that talked about people’s experiences and guides in running a startup. The goal was to learn as much as I could form others and apply these hard-fought lessons my own startup. Now that I’ve been working on a startup for almost two years I realize how much startups differ from one another and how black and white these guides tend to be. You can read two posts that will promote contradictory approaches. Should you focus on revenue or growth? Should you raise money or bootstrap? Should you go with a freemium model or paid only? Should you go solo or get a cofounder? Should you focus on consumers or the enterprise?
None of these questions have a universally right answer. What worked for one startup will not necessarily work for another one. There are just too many differences; the product, market, teams are all different. Time plays a huge factor as well. In a field as quickly moving, and novelty loving, as technology what worked 6 months ago may not have a chance right now. Startups are tough. If it were as simple as just following a how-to guide the success rate of startups would be an order of magnitude higher than what it actually is.
The best we can do is be aware of the available options and try to understand why certain strategies worked for others. We shouldn’t ignore what we read but we also shouldn’t emulate an approach just because others succeeded with it. We need to be the experts of our markets and imitating others only undermines that knowledge.