One of the themes I reference often in my entrepreneurship musings is the challenge of getting good advice. Let’s ignore, for a moment, the subtle irony of lamenting all the startup world’s bad advice in a newsletter devoted to giving startup advice. Instead, after my latest article about the subject went viral (linked below), it reaffirmed my belief that I can’t be the only person who’s annoyed by all the bad startup advice they’ve gotten. Clearly, lots of people have found themselves in similar positions.
Why? Why is getting good startup advice so difficult?
I could point to lots of reasons, but the biggest one is probably the uniqueness of each individual startup. Simply put, because every startup is different, there’s no single piece of advice someone like me can give to both Startup A and Startup B that’s going to definitely make both of them successful. Compare that to, say, a geometric formula. The Pythagorean Theorem is always going to be true. The startup world doesn’t have an equivalent type of universal truth.
Not that it needs one. Heck, I’m guessing one of the things that attracts people like us to startups is the general chaos of it all. Still, that doesn’t make it easy to get good startup advice. Except, of course, what you’re about to read in the rest of this issue of EOH… 😉
I Trusted a Billionaire, and He Destroyed My Company
Is startup advice from a billionaire really any more valuable than startup advice from a struggling entrepreneur? I’m not so sure…
30 Podcast Interviews With Startup Founders Every Entrepreneur Needs to Hear
You could be learning from some of the most successful entrepreneurs alive while you wash dishes!
Office Hours Q&A
You can consider this a rant as much as a question. But I’m really annoyed. It seems like no matter how much I try to teach my users to do something in my app, they always find ways to mess things up. It’s like nobody wants to read anything. They just want to click buttons and type whatever they want into forms and then my software should magically work. Why? And how do you deal with it?
You’re 100% correct. Users don’t want to read anything. Or watch tutorial videos. Or follow simple, on-screen instructions. Nothing! Users just want to use stuff, and, yes, they want magic to happen when they do.
Why? I don’t really know. I’m sure some UX expert out there has a better answer than me. Personally, I’ve just decided to accept it as a fact of startup life and account for it in everything I do.
And, by the way, it’s not just startup life. I can’t get my students to read anything, either. For example, in my syllabus this semester I’ve included the sentence, “When you read this sentence, email me your favorite cat meme.” I have roughly 100 students this semester, and guess how many cat memes I’ve been sent…
Even worse, later in the semester all the students who didn’t read the syllabus are going to get mad at me for something that was clearly explained in the syllabus.
The same is true for startups. Not only are your users going to ignore all but a tiny fraction of what you tell them, they’re going to get pissed at you when something works exactly how you told them it would work.
What can you do about it? For starters… don’t be an entrepreneur. Or, I guess, a teacher.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!
So, that's why my students complained about stuff covered in the syllabus. The "email-me-your- favorite-cat-meme" reminds me of the no-brown-M&M's provision in the Van Halen concert contract. (See https://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2012/02/14/146880432/the-truth-about-van-halen-and-those-brown-m-ms.)
I am one of the 3% of people who read terms-of-service agreements and hospital disclosure forms; so, I'm not a reliable guide to what most people do. I've considered doing a short video explaining what is in them; but if most people don't even watch tutorial videos, maybe I would just be speaking to myself.
I once had about 5 out of 25 students in an ethics class certify that they had read a short book I had planned to write but did not finish and distribute before the end of the semester. All but one was embarrassed when I pointed out that they claimed to have read a book that did not yet exist. The exception chastised me for pointing out her lapse. Go figure.