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The Infatuation Trap - why do startups fail?

Startups are born out of passion. You have an idea, you fall in love with it and the whole world goes bleary.

You may be a cautious type so you’ll write a business plan or join an entrepreneurial hub but anything you think, write or do will be through the rosy eyes that, just like with this great person you’ve just met, fail to see any misgivings.

For a (few) lucky ones the ducks get in a row by themselves, reality turns out to match their idea, the market responds well and a unicorn is born.

But for the vast majority reality soon kicks in and even if not a total failure, the business struggles to take off and when it finally does it is a faded image of what they had thought and hoped it would be.

The reason for this is that passion is an emotion while business is a reality and while it is best to have a business you feel strongly about it is usually not a good idea to let passion be in the driver’s seat.

I’ve been mentoring startups for over 10 years and have seen these characteristics again and again. These are my conclusions about what you can do to increase the chances of turning your dream into reality:

  1. Awareness - Be conscious of the source of your drive and don’t let it be the decision maker.

  2. Perspective - You need to understand that the fact that you do what you do because it makes you jump out of bed in the morning doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is necessarily the same.

  3. Caution - Even if you have this great idea that the world is craving for, it may not know it yet - if something doesn’t exist it is hard to want it. So make sure you have a proper marketing plan.

  4. Objectivity - It may be very clear to you why your product or service is the greatest gift to humanity ever but it may not be so straightforward to others so try to look at your offering through other people’s eyes and create your marketing plan from their perspective, not yours.

  5. Scrutiny - Just like you can’t see your latest date’s faults because you are smitten, it is going to be hard for you to see your business’s. So ask people you trust what they honestly think and don’t dismiss their opinions. Whatever they say to you might be a reflection of what your clients may think.

Finally, get yourself a mentor. It doesn't matter if they are volunteering through a hub, you managed to harness them as board members, or you actually pay them. A proper mentor will have the knowledge and experience to challenge you to see all these pitfalls and be able to help you avoid them. It is up to you to listen to them and develop.

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