Startup Post-Mortem: Lessons Learned from My Startup Odyssey

At times, the most valuable lessons stem from introspection and analyzing the experiences from our own personal journeys. In that spirit, these are few crucial insights from my failed startup journey, encompassing engineering, business, design, and a myriad of other subjects.

Engineering Lessons

  1. Embrace scrappiness: Startups have an edge over larger organizations because they can be nimble and adapt quickly. Don’t get bogged down in planning features and services; instead, focus on implementing and iterating quickly.

  2. Quick and simple first version: Always build the initial version of your product as quickly and simply as possible, even if the code isn’t perfect. You’ll learn more from getting something out there than from endlessly polishing your code.

  3. Refactor and optimize: Once you have a baseline version, spend time reading the code, refactoring, and optimizing your product. This will make it more efficient and easier to maintain in the long run.

  4. Make development easy for new team members: Consider the onboarding experience for new developers and strive to make the development process as straightforward as possible. We struggled with too many repositories and services, which made it difficult for new team members to get up to speed.

  5. Keep the team small: Maintain a lean team until there’s a clear need for expansion. This will help you stay agile and focused on your core product.

Business Lessons

  1. Identify problems from observations: Look for genuine problems to solve, rather than searching for evidence to support a preconceived notion of what the problem might be.

  2. Deeply understand the problem: Avoid cognitive biases and ensure you have a thorough understanding of the issue you’re trying to solve.

  3. Separate your value from your ideas: Prioritize your thought process over specific ideas, and be willing to let go of an idea if it’s not working.

  4. Listen to customers early on: Get feedback from customers as soon as possible and use it to shape your product.

  5. Customer service is key: Never underestimate the importance of excellent customer service in building a successful business.

  6. Know your value proposition: Be clear about the value your product or project provides to users.

Design Lessons

  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel: Use existing design patterns and solutions when appropriate, rather than trying to create something entirely new.

  2. Use templates in the early stages: Design can be time-consuming, so use templates and other time-saving tools in the early stages of your product development.

Miscellaneous Lessons

  1. Study, but don’t always mimic, competitors: Learn from what others in your industry are doing, but avoid always copying their features or design. Instead, use this knowledge to inform and inspire your own unique approach.