startup founder

3 Mistakes Startup Founders and Olympians Should Avoid


The Olympics are in full swing and the world is watching. Success and failures abound, personalities are shining (some shying away), and medals are getting handed out. So, what do the Olympics and startups have in common? The big winners are obvious, the monumental blunders are apparent, and there are thousands of stories we’ll never even hear about. Here are the top 3 mistakes startup founders and Olympic hopefuls should avoid.

Choosing the wrong location.

Olympic athletes are among the best in the world at what they do and a huge proportion of the games events are individual rather than team based. An Olympic gymnast can practice the rings in their own backyard all year long if they want. However, if you talk to most of the top tier athletes around the world they will tell you that nothing beats training at your country’s Olympic Training Center, if you have the opportunity. Top tier athletes from all over the country coming together in one place with a singular focus…an Olympic Gold Medal. A collective energy and friendly competition drives athletes to perform their best day in and day out.

If you’ve got an idea for a great startup being in the right city can make all the difference in the world. The simple fact is that nearly all venture capital money in the world is dolled out in and around Silicon Valley. If you seriously want to compete on the global scale, head to where the opportunity is located. Yeah, the competition is stiff here, but that’s what drives the very best to perform at the highest levels. It’s not the worst of startup mistakes if you prefer to stay where you are, but it’s just about what your goal is. If your goal is to win the top place, then choose to start from the right place either.

Going it alone.

Every Olympian has a coach. Someone pushing them to perform, providing constant feedback and analysis, and generally helping to keep an athlete pointed in the right direction. The relationship between coach and athlete is one that is more than just a matter of matching skills. It’s about chemistry, it’s about connection, it’s about matching personalities and passions. No athlete makes it to the top of the podium without a great coach.

Just as no great athlete can make it alone, single founder companies have little chance of making it big. Giants of tech such as Paul Graham have pointed out a myriad of flaws with the single founder model and who are we to suggest otherwise. Even here at Kanbanchi, we have a team based in UK and a team based in Russia, each playing a fundamental part in our history. Starting and growing a company is hard enough, don’t try and do it all yourself.

Not giving it your all.

If you’ve made it to the Olympics it’s hard to imagine that you haven’t worked hard and accomplished a lot.  Nevertheless, many athletes make it to this point on great natural ability. Ability that has been honed and driven, but isn’t necessarily focused. If you talk to the greatest Olympic athletes you will find that there was a turning point, a moment when they made the mental transition from “This is important” to “This is everything”.  The reality is that winning a gold medal at the Olympics is going to dominate every moment of your life for years leading up to the actual Games.

Running a successful startup is a commitment. The moment when you think you’ve given it all you’ve got, it’s time to push twice as hard. Success comes to those who are able to sustain an amount of effort that most find untenable for years and years. The company will take everything out of you. It will push you harder than anything you’ve done before. It doesn’t mean you can’t start a company at nights and on weekends, but it means that you have to be ready to take the plunge and commit to making this your future. Dipping your toes into it will never result in earth shattering success, it may result in a reasonably nice side project, but big time success requires big time commitment.

Closing thoughts.

The Olympics are the world’s greatest stage for athletes and getting there takes tremendous effort and commitment. Building a massively successful startup represents the same obligation of time, effort, and energy. Things like finding a partner or coach, choosing a location that enables success, and then giving it everything that you possibly have will help you earn that medal you desire.

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