February 11, 2014

Seven Signs Your Startup is Doomed

By Mark Evans

What are the telltale signs your startup is doomed? Does its demise come suddenly or is it death by a thousand cuts?

For many entrepreneurs, the end of the line is a surprise and shock. By nature, entrepreneurs are relentlessly optimistic and stubbornly married to their vision. It doesn’t help that we celebrate entrepreneurial success while quietly shuffle failure to the background.

startup failure

The reality, however, is 90% of startups fail. It’s not for a lack of effort, energy or hard work but  because their products aren’t loved enough.

What are the signs that it’s time to give up on your startup?

1. It’s obvious your product doesn’t solve a problem or meet a need. Sure, it’s interesting and may work but that’s not enough to make it a viable enough product to support a business. This is the “meh syndrome”, which is an unenviable place.

2. You’re getting some Website traffic but few conversions. Again, it demonstrates your product’s value propositions and benefits aren’t compelling. Truth be told, many startups cut themselves off at the knees because they do a terrible job of articulating their value propositions and benefits. This is particularly painful when their product has value.

3. You can’t attract early evangelists willing to wave the flag to attract more users. Without enthusiastic users, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to gain any momentum. In many respects, evangelists are your best marketers and salespeople. Without them startup life is a hard grind.

4. There are stronger, better financed competitors. They don’t need to have better products; they’re just better positioned as having the right product to meet the needs of users. Sometimes, rivals have a first-mover advantage. They have attracted the spotlight, or they have a feature that is compelling.

5. Your product has plenty of features but there is negligible pickup. Many startups believe that adding more features will eventually crush the consumer resistance. The reality, however, is piling on more features confuses, if not distracts, potential users who value simplicity.

6. There’s no buzz internally. Your employees are going through the motions rather than excited about what they’re doing and the startup’s prospects. This makes it difficult to keep people motivated or attract top-notch talent.

7. No one – not even friends and family – wants to provide financing, which is the ultimate sign that your startup is going unloved and unwanted. This is a bitter pill to swallow because it showcases the lack or loss of faith in your product and vision.

For more thoughts on startup failure, here’s a post on VentureBeat about why a growing number of entrepreneurs are talking about how things went wrong.

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