The Golden Rule of Startup Success

Excellent reminder from Matt Douglas, CEO of

March 14, 2008


Don’t give up: when you’re all alone at the beginning, trying to figure out if there is a market for your product.

Don’t give up: when all you have is a Powerpoint presentation and a vision.

Don’t give up: when you struggle to explain what exactly it is you are working on (chances are you’re not even really sure yet yourself).

Don’t give up: when you can’t find people to take a risk with you, to join you at the infancy stage of your startup.

Don’t give up: when every VC you meet with says that the “market is too small” or “the competitive space is too crowded” or “they don’t see how it can become a 100M company. (Read Mike Feinstein’s post).

Don’t give up: when product development is going slower than you would like, when big bad bugs slow you down, and when the user interface still isn’t quite right.

Don’t give up: when your early beta customers tell you the 50 other things the product needs before they would actually use it.

Don’t give up: when the press (or bloggers) won’t cover your product or write about your latest development.

Don’t give up: when potential partners don’t return your phone calls and show a mediocre interest in actually closing a deal.

Don’t give up: when individual angel investors get cold feet before they write the check.

Don’t give up: when you can’t find GREAT people to hire to round out your team.

Don’t give up: when they tell you it can’t be done or it’s already been done — when they tell you to pick another market.

Don’t give up: when the competition heats up.

Don’t give up: when others can’t see the potential that you do.

Don’t give up: when others around you do.

To all of those who wrote about what it takes to build a successful startup, I challenge you: is there another golden rule of startup success that trumps my Golden Rule?

Whether you save money, build a hot product, hire the right people or fire the workaholics, I believe that the only thing that matters is that you don’t give up. This is something that can’t be taught: it’s like the Gatorade commercials: do you have IT in you?

If you’re trying to build a startup– or maybe you’re struggling to get it off of the ground I hope you’ll re-read this post when you feel like giving up. Then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back to it. Little by little everyday. Just don’t give up, and the rest will take care of itself.

As we build, I remind myself everyday not to give up. That’s the only thing that really matters.

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