Intro to Startup anti-pattern Series

Co-authored with Simeon Simeonov

An anti-pattern is a commonly used process, structure, or pattern of action that, despite initially appearing to be an appropriate and effective response to a problem, has more bad consequences than good ones.

Simeon Simeonov first wrote an introduction to the value of startup anti-patterns back in 2013. To sum it up, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact set of reasons startups succeed, but experienced entrepreneurs and investors have a good sense of what drives startups’ failures.

Startup anti-patterns are all about that — patterns that increase the risks associated with startups (hey, it’s a risky business to begin with). Pursuing an anti-pattern doesn’t mean that your company will die tomorrow or in the next year, but each anti-pattern adds-up and could lead to clouding your focus and hampering your ability to execute.

Together with Itamar Novick from Recursive Ventures, Simeon Simeonov is bringing the Startup anti-pattern series to life. Stay tuned for more in this series as we work through each anti-pattern with tangible examples from our experiences as founders and investors in 100+ startups, and the experiences of guest founders from our portfolio.

Startup Anti-Patterns full list (work in progress…)

Studying repeatable patterns of startup failure (startup anti-patterns) is more useful than studying non-repeatable strategies for startup success.

Top Startup Anti-Patterns:

  1. Elephant hunting
  2. Ignorance
  3. Platform risk
  4. Analysis paralysis
  5. Arrogance
  6. Attribution risk
  7. Bad revenue
  8. Bleeding on the edge
  9. Boiling the ocean
  10. Bridge to nowhere
  11. Changing strategy instead of execution
  12. Chasing the competition
  13. Confirmation bias
  14. Confusing activity with results
  15. Consulting to product
  16. Death by pivot
  17. Deathmarch
  18. Delayed scaling
  19. Demand generation
  20. Design by committee
  21. Designing for investors
  22. Drag
  23. Escalation of commitment
  24. Escape to the familiar
  25. Escapism
  26. Featuritis
  27. Forward thinking
  28. Founderitis
  29. Groupthink
  30. Hail Mary
  31. If you build it, they will come
  32. Ivory tower
  33. Lack of focus
  34. Lagging indicators
  35. Learned helplessness
  36. Long feedback cycles
  37. Lying to investors
  38. Magic salesperson
  39. Mentor whiplash
  40. Missing your exit
  41. Myopic bootstrapping
  42. Next round only
  43. Not knowing your investors
  44. One-off customization
  45. Oooh, shiny!
  46. Overengineering
  47. Overselling
  48. Oversteering
  49. Platform trap
  50. Premature optimization
  51. Premature scaling
  52. Promiscuity
  53. Proof by anecdote
  54. Pushing a rope
  55. Raising too little
  56. Random founders
  57. Scapegoat
  58. Second class citizens
  59. Seed extensions
  60. Secrecy
  61. Silver bullet
  62. Spreadsheet Bingo
  63. Stovepipes
  64. The one idea entrepreneur
  65. Top-down planning
  66. Uber pivot
  67. Underqualifying
  68. Unicorn hunting
  69. Unrealistic expectations
  70. Warm bodies
  71. Weak board
  72. Yes man
  73. Zombie
  74. Outsourcing your architecture (via Alan Neveu)

Note: the list is not “drawn to scale.” Some anti-patterns occur more frequently than others and some are more likely to cause a startup to fail than others. 

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