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Bring out your dying…

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

If you’ve been involved in startups for more than, oh, a week or so, you’ll have noticed there’s never enough resources in them.  And if you’ve been around a bit longer, you’ll also know that most startups die.

I believe these are linked, and not in the way you may think they are.  Most startups should not be left to die.  In fact they should be killed.  Yes, you read right.  They should be killed – and as quickly as the data permits.

Why?  Because it’s the only way to shift the resources to other projects.  Projects starting to gain momentum, new projects needing a start.  Very often, failure to kill projects stems from less than noble reasons.

  • Reason one:  The project limps on because, having failed to develop a clear business hypothesis, there is no agreement about what results to date mean.
  • Reason two:  Evaluation is distorted by emotional attachment.  Most commonly, the Sunk Cost Fallacy.

It’s a fine line between perseverance and obstinacy.  Recognising that a startup is, to use Steve Blank’s definition, “a temporary organization in search of a scalable and repeatable business model” makes the task easier.  Set a clear hypothesis.  Test it by getting data.   If the data is negative, pivot it or kill it.  If the data is positive, concentrate resources there. 

Woolly-thinking, issue-avoiding, living-dead startups starve the rest.  So kill ‘em off, that others can take their place.