OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

A word from the wise: The 18 mistakes that kill startups- by Paul Graham

If you haven't already heard of him, Paul Graham is the founder of Y Combinator, one of the most prestigious start up incubators. He's seen countless companies fail and has personally founded and mentored many very successful companies.

Photo of Amanda Rees
4 6

Written by

Here is an overview of the 18 mistakes listed by Paul Graham:

1. Single Founder
2. Bad Location
3. Marginal Niche
4. Derivative Idea
5. Obstinacy
6. Hiring Bad Programmers
7. Choosing the Wrong Platform
8. Slowness in Launching
9. Launching Too Early
10. Having No Specific User in Mind
11. Raising Too Little Money
12. Spending Too Much
13. Raising Too Much Money
14. Poor Investor Management
15. Sacrificing Users to (Supposed) Profit
16. Not Wanting to Get Your Hands Dirty
17. Fights Between Founders
18. A Half-Hearted Effort

Graham describes in greater detail how and why these pose problems for start-ups.  For the full article:


Join the conversation:

Photo of DeletedUser


Brilliant. A sober reminder of how difficult it really is to scale a web business successfully. I would add a 19th point to supplement points 11, 12, 13 : spending the money you raise on the wrong thing (in my case a very expensive API that my business didn't need). Often this is done to satisfy investors. Whatever funding mechanisms the EU adopts should allow entrepreneurs to follow their instincts.

There are good reasons why funders want to specify how their money is spent of course, but also some bad ones. A lot of the need for control on the part of funds arises because their staff need to show they are hands on and are exercising due diligence. This can occasionally lead them to overspecify how the money is spent.

Photo of DeletedUser


I think this is a great article! Some points are what we never able to notice unless we become startups though. But always mentoring or getting some advice beforehands help young startups help like us :)

Photo of Meena Kadri

Great stuff, Amanda. As folks discuss this inspiration – perhaps they'd like to think about barriers which may be particular to the EU as well.

Photo of DeletedUser


Amanda a great list of ideas. Also I think it could be linked with the Startup Genome Report. :)