30 Startup Lessons


(Article by Sergio Romo)

1. Building Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) is easy. Knowing which assumptions to validate is not.

2. Nailing an MVP fast involves a certain degree of luck. It takes time to find the right distribution channels.

3. Learning to code is not essential, but it’s important and helpful when you can’t hire/find technical talent.

4. Entrepreneurship is learning to live in a constant state of uncertainty. Yes, endless doubts every single day.

5. A great MVP is finding people like yourself and build/ join a community around that interest.

6. The success of a product is highly dependent on its design at the first stages of a startup.

7. Great design comes with great understanding of a problem.

8. Arrogance kills you and your relationships. Then your startup dies.

9. Learning curves are underestimated. A lot of time in startups goes into learning how to do new things you ignored and can’t hire people to do.

10. Motivation is hard. Keeping your team motivated comes from you being motivated. Startups don’t run on cash only but on morale too.

11. Startups are creative organizations that might turn into businesses one day. Many startup investors think they invest in the latter.

12. Build something for yourself is dangerous advice, you risk building something only you want. It is fun though.

13. Finding liquidity in startups is hard. It’s almost unethical to take money from friends, fools and family without product market fit.

14. San Francisco can be the cheapest city on earth for a startup founder. The benefit-cost ratio when meeting the right people is extremely high.

15. Rejection, not failure, is the default state of startups (from market, family and investors). It’s not personal, do not mix emotions with business.

16. Building a company is not the same as managing a company. In the beginning the most important thing is managing yourself.

17. Leadership is a daily decision. Doing what you say, setting the example and inspiring others is what matters.

18. Mixing hobbies and passion with work can backfire. Money pressure can take the beauty out of anything. Mastering the balance is an art.

19. There are no startup experts. Every startup is related to the uniqueness of their founders. Be wary of startup experts.

20. The best startup pieces of advice I’ve found are stories from other founders. Taking the best out of them and learning is a continuous challenge.

21. Starting a startup is a gamble. The more educated the gamble the better. It’s important to know the history of your industry.

22. Networking is most effective when you can bring value to the network. Most people just want to extract value.

23. “Focus on your strengths” is a luxury for startups. It’s the biggest excuse not to do something you’re startup needs because you ignore how to do it.

24. Venture capital is helpful but can be addictive. It’s hurtful when you don’t have it and think you need it.

25. Being delusional kills startups. Most founders are delusional. Meditation helps.

26. Capital does not precede success, it works the other way around.

27. Try not to spend a week without talking or listening to people who is successful at what they do.

28. Almost every design fault or bug can be fixed with great customer service.

29. If you want to become something hang out with people who are already that something.

30. If you want an audience be part of the audience first.


These are not rules just personal reflections as I turn thirty today. Special thanks to all the people who have spent time talking to me, teaching me lessons or proving me wrong for thirty years.

Special thanks to Camila Lecaros for reading drafts of this essay.

Visit Sergio Romo’s website: romo.vc

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