15 things I learned from 500 Startups (aka Fail Factory)

Inspired by “50 things I learned at 500”, I decided to write my own but shorter version. It’s not as funny as Kim’s, but it will give you slight insight into this prestigious accelerator (chances to get in it is lower than acceptance rate at Ivy League colleges – 0.8%).

  1. 500 Startups is a fail factory for a reason: “…have fun cause most likely you are going to fail anyways” were the words of Dave McClure during one of our first batch meetings. Enjoy the amazing view from the 12th floor office while you can.

    2011-11-22 12.05.32
    View from the tallest office in Mountain View
  2. You can get into 500 Startups accelerator even if your idea or product sucks. Or even if you don’t have product yet. Killer teams of hackers, designers and hustlers – that’s what matter! Startups pivot a lot and often.
  3. Location matters: imagine if you have the greatest product, team and traction but in the middle of nowhere and there is a similar startup with inferior metrics in Silicon Valley. Mostly likely they will be founded! Connections and contacts are VERY important. Angels invest in faces and teams.
  4. Don’t f*ck up (or at least do it fast): the worst situation for founders (and investors) is when the startups in the land of “living dead” making some progress but not succeeding; failing fast and soon is important if you’re not blowing up.
  5. Many startups have similar recipes for failure. Too many non-tech founders in a tech startups is as bad as lack of focus and discipline.
  6. Don’t work with smart but unpleasant people. Business is personal no matter what other people tell you.
  7. Melissa and Christine are super friendly. Dave is super busy traveling most of the time. Spend your time wisely if you have office hours with him. True for any other office hours as well :)
  8. Living with co-founders is hard. Even if it’s okay for you it might not be okay for them and there is no easy way to tell how bad the situation is until the conflict comes up. So get your own place unless you are married or in a bromance with your co-founder :)
  9. Bunch of nerds in their 20s equals frat house like parties, beer-pong and poker nights, dirty dishes, messed up toilets (leads to public bashing by Paul).
    2011-12-08 19.40.00
    Beer-pong every other night
    2011-11-06 22.23.55
    Brazilian night

    2011-11-16 21.01.08
    Somebody going to get hurt
  10. Mentors, investors, angels, VCs, reporters, clients and random guests roam freely thru clattered office of cheapest kindergarten-like furniture. Be ready for it any time and keep your table neat.
  11. Get sh*t done: building things is more important than knowing some deep technical things and concepts. “Success theatre” could be fun (everyone like to be perceived as a next cool thing) but there is a problem if you start believing in it yourself!
  12. Don’t spend all your money on super duper rockstarts/ninjas/gurus with big titles in prestigious companies unless they really can deliver.
  13. Don’t spend your time on interns who slow or just not up to the tasks: it’s not fair to them and it’s just a waste of time for you because usually there is no time to teach them.
  14. Suburban life could be quite enjoyable: plenty of restaurants, trails, gyms, coffee shops, massages, etc.
  15. Naps are shameless and couches are precious.

    2011-11-01 16.24.04
    Power nap time

Now, enough writing – back to work.

Azat Mardanov (500 Startups F11)

Author: Azat

Techies, entrepreneur, 20+ years in tech/IT/software/web development expert: NodeJS, JavaScript, MongoDB, Ruby on Rails, PHP, SQL, HTML, CSS. 500 Startups (batch Fall 2011) alumnus. http://azat.co http://github.com/azat-co

10 thoughts on “15 things I learned from 500 Startups (aka Fail Factory)”

  1. Your honesty is rehirsfeng. In my experience, people are either hardwired to be startup entrepreneurs or they’re not but I will add that I felt the same way as you when I graduated law school. I worked for a Wall Street firm for two years and ultimately decided there had to be more to life. I was representing people who had created outrageously successful businesses, and the truth is I wanted to BE on of them rather than WORK for one of them. I’ve been fortunate to have founded a series of multimillion-dollar startups over the last 15 years. Was it risky/scary? Absolutely especially when leaving the security of a six-figure income meant that I would not likely ever be able to return. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! Do what makes sense for you now .and just know that your position may change when you realize that you’re just as smart if not SMARTER than the people you’re WORKING for!!

  2. Chris,

    Thank you! I think IKEA has covers of all kinds and colors for couches. I remember group of our clients was very impressed with the building and the fact that it’s on 12th floor. I bet it’s the most expensive real estate in Mountain View. Until they walked and saw furniture, bare concrete floor. Their comment was something like “it looks like kindergarten”.

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