April 22, 2019

Turn yourself into the "type of person" who builds a successful startup.

Harry Dry @harrydry

Don't get hung up on the idea of "building a successful startup". Focus on turning yourself into the type of person who builds a successful startup.

I could have launched my first startup 1000 times over and I'd have failed every time. Why? Because other than being able to write some basic html + css I had virtually no attributes of the type of person who makes it.

I could barely code. I was a perfectionist. I'd never heard of Paul Graham. Designing a landing page took me weeks. I had no email list. No connections. No Indie Hackers account. No marketing ideas other than Product Hunt.

Don't get down if your projects aren't working out. Just keep building new stuff, sharpening your talent stack, like Federer at the net, till it turns to muscle memory.


  1. 4

    Some attributes of the "type of person" who builds a successful startup =>

    • can make landing page quickly
    • can code complex SAAS
    • has read Paul Graham's blog
    • comfortable with Google Analytics
    • has run FB / Twitter / Reddit Ads before
    • has run Kickstarter before
    • good with numbers
    • experienced at sharing stuff online
    • good at writing cold emails
    • can grow Instagram
    • has a great cofounder
    • has following already
    • has mentors to hold accountable
    • has enough money to focus full time
    • has enough money to pay for help
    • comfortable sharing their work
    • gets lots of feedback
    • has failed before

    there's far too many to list. And you don't want to try and get good at everything. Sometimes you just need to be really good at one or two.

  2. 3

    I like the sentiment of improving yourself. It's easy to measure improvement in your company: are the numbers going up or not? By comparison, you're a black box. It's difficult to measure where you're improving and by how much. As a result, it's easy to neglect self-improvement. But that's a mistake.

    I just blogged about this yesterday, but unless you're absolutely crushing it, you're probably being held back by some weakness you have… a bad habit, a blindspot, a misconception, a bias toward some inferior way of doing things, whatever. Assuming you're already doing what you can to capitalize on your strengths, progress comes from identifying and eliminating your biggest weaknesses. In other words, from self-improvement.

    It's also a really great consolation prize. I failed at a number of startups, but I came out the other side a much better developer, so I didn't feel too bad.

    1. 1

      Interesting. "Consolation prize" is one way of putting it. I like to think of failures as the bricks. And success as the finished wall.

      The reason why focusing on self improvement is so crucial is your numbers are often disconnected to your ability.

      I know the founder of big job site online. He got into the market early, sold his company for a million and thought he was a startup genius. Every single one of his business' since have failed miserably.

      Why? Because he never truly acquired the skills of a founder. He took his first startup booming as a sign that "it was easy" and "he naturally made good decisions", without ever considering that he just got really lucky with his timing.

      As you said in your blog post, evaluate yourself in the bad times. But also the good times: "Am I doing something right here? If so what."

      Cause the numbers lie. Just look at any football table.