The 5 Curses that Cause Startups to Fail

If you look at the full spectrum of businesses - those  getting ready to kick off, those with expansionist ambitions, but also the huge and prospering ones and, unfortunately, even those in decline, you will discover that the problems encountered, regardless of the scale or age of a particular business or sector, are repetitive.

In the old days, when an entire village was struggling with the same problem, people used to say that someone had put a curse on that village. Sickness and famine also occasionally strike the entrepreneur's village. At the lowest common denominator, 5 types of curses seem to afflict startups in the startup ecosystem. Just as almost every sickness has a cure, this piece will help you learn how to discover the symptoms and what are the strategies to dispel any of these curses and get back on track with your business. These are the common denominators many startups face on the journey to glory.

The Curse of An Awesome Idea

We all want to be successful. Unless it’s a money laundering business, nobody starts a business to incur losses. Unfortunately, people tend to deify their ideas and have problems with keeping both feet on the ground when it comes to assessing the real potential of the idea. They presuppose that everyone will like their idea.

Antidote: Change the perspective. Look at your product through the eyes of your client. Put yourself in your client’s shoes. Even better - ask your prospective clients about their opinion on your idea. The only cure is real customer feedback.


The Sales Curse

Contrary to popular belief, business is not about selling. It’s about focusing on things which can bring value to your clients or provide them with a solution to their problems. “I have a cool product, I will definitely sell it somehow” - that way of thinking isn’t the most efficient method to make profits. That sort of thinking makes you a person who wants to palm something off on somebody. Why should anyone want to buy something from you if they don’t actually feel that they need that thing? Your clients must see value in your offer.

Antidote: Build your business around the needs of your clients. First, you need to analyse their needs. What they care about? What’s eating them? But most of all, what are they ready to spend their hard-earned money on? And then you can offer a  solution - a tailored product.


The Scale Curse


If you managed to tackle the Sales Curse, watch out for this one. It’s super-slick! It prompts “great” ideas, which are the answers to the needs of... not so many people at all. Entrepreneurs often make the mistake of trying to find a solution to a “global problem of today’s world,” like a pen for writing in the dark. It often turns out that there are only a few people who really need such a product. The rest of the population has more down-to-earth needs and often a very limited budget. Now, get ready for the blast: not every single need of a client is worth satisfying. If you’re planning to start a business, then your idea has to be scalable - there must be enough prospective clients who will pay for your product.

Antidote: Identify your clients’ problem and ask yourself whether it’s really worth solving. Maybe it’s a burning issue? Or it cannot be solved without your product, or maybe the competition has neglected it? But remember - not every problem has to be solved, some target groups may simply be not big enough and the clients may not be interested in paying for every type of product.


The Universality Curse 

Many people try to sell “everything to everyone”. Here’s the logic behind it: the more diverse products I have for different clients, the greater the chance that I will finally sell something - statistically. As a matter of fact, that’s not the thing. If your offer covers a wide range of diverse products, without a certain specialisation, it will be pretty difficult to reach the perfect client and draw him or her to your business. Let alone convincing the client to buy something from you, since you cannot focus on one marketing strategy, one place of carrying out your promotion activities, one form of advertising.

Antidote: Don’t get too attached to a particular product. Think about your clients and try to help them solve their particular problems. Find a niche and squeeze the best out of it. Become a specialist.


The Funding Curse

Now that’s a hard case which requires some really serious magic.  You will usually see this happen  when a businessperson is already trapped by the other curses.. The story behind it has a very simple plot. A person comes up with an awesome idea, but fails to check whether there is any rationale behind it. As there is no traction, it is hard to make any money and scale the business. So, the person takes “half a mill” of funding, signs a bill of exchange and BAM! - we have a new and healthy startup, right? Not necessarily  After a few months of running the startup it appears that market tests are negative, nobody is interested in the offer and there are no clients. But there is that bill of exchange. And a big problem. It is a truly dangerous curse which can turn your life upside down.

Antidote: Don’t take any funds before you check if your business can hold up without those funds. The best time to take on investment is to accelerate the scaling of your business, not validation of product-market fit. The more mature your business is, the more likely you are to raise at a favorable valuation - and not burn all the money figuring out your business model.


Having a startup is an exciting adventure, but it can also be a dangerous one. Nobody wants to turn a great experience into a disaster that can have an impact not only on your business but also your personal life. Nobody wants to be left with a failure and a debt. So do your homework and know your enemy. If you do not know what can hurt your startup, you do not know how to prepare and fight it. This piece introduced you to the 5 common curses that hit the startups ecosystem. It also gave you the strategies to fight against them. Make good use of it, and go and change the world.


What is your experience? Have you heard of or encountered any other business curses? Do you know how to handle them?