Challenges with Heavy Startups

The Lean Startup methodology has been popular for several years now and promotes a simple, iterative process to find customer demand and build a product around it in a customer-centric manner. Now, the opposite of a lean startup is a heavy startup where the entrepreneurs think they know what the market wants, raises a ton of money immediately, hires a large team, and then builds a product with some customer input.

Personally, I’ve invested in three heavy startups, and all didn’t work. Here are a few lessons learned:

  • Struggling to make the business work in a cash-strapped manner is actually healthy for the founding team
  • Overcoming shared challenges and intense experiences results in a more cohesive, stronger team
  • Similar to the Mythical Man Month, more people added to a startup doesn’t result in faster finding of product/market fit
  • Additional engineering and product resources, before product/market fit, results in features, documentation, etc. that are never adopted and slow down future work (similar to technical debt)
  • Larger teams take more time to achieve buy-in and move in the same direction

While many entrepreneurs want the resources to hire 10 extra people before the market has validated the product, most of the time this doesn’t work and brings more problems than benefits.

What else? What are some other challenges that come with heavy startups?

3 thoughts on “Challenges with Heavy Startups

  1. Good information, I’m starting a business and it would be nice to have lots of capital to work with, but it looks like I might be going about this the right way after all.

  2. I think there are a few more challenges:

    – focus in heavy startups is more towards sales then creating a better product, which leads to wrong focus for a company that just started
    – most of the time the heavy startup will seek for ways to optimize the internal organization because of the sudden scale, mostly using proven working methods which we have seen not to work with agile organizations

    Also have seen companies like this never be able to grow at the right speed and grow exponentially. Usually the linear grow pattern is followed: adding more sales people to sell more of the same product and then suddenly not being able to scale in the right way.

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