18 mistakes that kill startups

Starting up a business is a thrilling journey - and a definite learning curve. However, don’t be terrified by the title. Every startup makes mistakes, but awareness is half the battle. Educate yourselves on the most common pitfalls of starting up with this infographic, rather than learning the hard way!


1. Single founder

Two heads are usually better than one – as are two sets of arms, two sets of finances, and two sets of idea-driven enthusiasm. Having another person onboard with your business can help drive you when the going gets tough, help keep your ideas fresh, and ensure that you keep your eye on the prize.

2. Bad location

If your business relies on footfall, don’t put it in the middle of nowhere. If your business is in pre-profit stages, renting out an office in an eye-wateringly expensive area can be counter-productive (even if it is the next cool startup hub). Think about the market demand in the area where you’re locating to, and how easily your customers will be able to find you.

3. Marginal niche

Finding your niche is important - but if it’s too niche there just won’t be enough people to buy your product. Avoid by doing plenty of market research and being honest with yourself about the actual demand for your product. Find out more about super-charging your market research here.

4. Derivative idea

Having a unique idea means that your product offers something that no other product in the world does - the holy grail for a startup. Concentrate on your product or service's unique selling points, and emphasise these. What do you offer that nobody else can?

 5. Obstinacy

It’s important to stay true to your values and vision when starting up, but this doesn’t mean refusing to listen to any feedback, or going ahead with a bad idea. Remain flexible and open. Your path might change – and it could be the making of your startup.

6. Hiring bad programmers

If you’re running a tech business and you don’t have the know-how to programme yourself, it might be tempting to go for someone cheap and cheerful – but in the long-term this decision could come back to haunt you. Do it right the first time – or you’ll probably end up paying more anyway.

7. Choosing the wrong platform

Similarly to above, maybe you’ve picked the wrong programming language, or the wrong kind of CMS. If you’re not a tech business perhaps you’ve chosen the wrong format for your business (a physical shop when most of your sales are online, for example). Research, research, and research some more to ensure that you’ve picked the most effective platform for your business.

8. Slowness in launching

Time is precious, and so is momentum. If your business is getting some attention, ensure you take advantage of it (if possible) – don’t let your launch drag on for month after month (or even years) on end.

9. Launching too early

Conversely to the point above, setting sail before you’re ready can also harm your startup’s chances. If your product’s quality is too poor (or you have no product at all), or if you’re not prepared for customer demand with the right systems and infrastructure, you’re likely to provide your customers with a bad buying experience – which won’t get you off to the best start.

10. Having no specific user in mind

Market research is key to launching a successful startup. If you don’t have a specific audience in mind, then you don’t know who to market your product to with enough conviction. Ensure that you know exactly who you’re selling to by asking these questions!

11. Raising too little money

This one speaks for itself; too little money for your needs and you won’t be able to meet vital starting up costs.  Applying for a Virgin StartUp Loan can see you secure a loan of up to £25,000 to help get your business off the ground.

12. Spending too much

Another financial-based issue; spending too much. You might have raised enough money for your business, but it’s easy to get side-tracked with everything from fancy business cards to extravagant websites. Even if you’ve raised investment, keep things thrifty.

13. Raising too much money

This might seem like a great problem to have,  but raising too much money can be really problematic. It can delay you actually launching, because raising capital is a big undertaking, and if the money comes from investors meeting your obligations to them can feel overwhelming quickly. It's often better to raise a little to start, create your minimum viable product, then raise a little more as you go along.

14. Poor investor management

If you have picked the wrong investors or assigned them too much responsibility or power within the business, dealing with them can quickly become  a headache. You might even find yourself having to buy them out, which is likely to be expensive and difficult.

15. Sacrificing users to (supposed) profit

You should always put your users above profit. Profit is important, but keeping your users happy and loyal begets more users, which begets more profit long-term.

16. Not wanting to get your hands dirty

Getting involved with all aspects of running a startup – even the parts you don’t want to – will ensure that you know your business inside out at all times.

17. Fights between founders

It happens to the best of us – and in an exhilarating yet stressful situation such as starting a new business, it’s almost inevitable.  To avoid tempers running high, remain honest with each other and talk out any disagreements early on.

18. A half-hearted effort

Starting up a business will take all your passion and enthusiasm. If you’re not that bothered from the get-go, then what’s going to happen if things get tough? You need to be putting 100% in from the very beginning.