Having rolled into 2015, business optimism is at an eight-year high and that should translate into more risk taking and more startups. This year will get more people addicted to that alluring potion of startup adrenaline and if that’s you, consider these five actionable secrets for startup success.

  1. Simply tell your story.I use the word “simply” here in its most literal meaning – tell it in its most simple form. This is a cornerstone for building any successful startup. Many would call it an elevator pitch. For one of the most compelling dissections of an elevator pitch, check outI Got 99 Problems and a Pitch Is One, a podcast from This American Life where noted venture capitalist Chris Sacca savages a pitch to invest in a podcast startup.

Developing a narrative of your vision in a very succinct manner will also drag you through a process where you’re likely to uncover problems that you may be overlooking. Stripping your plan to its essentials will help you determine if it is, in fact, marketable

  1. Have a minimum viable product or service. Investors don’t back ideas unless you already have a successful multi-million-dollar start-up on your CV. Two words are important here: minimum and viable. You don’t need to start out with some complicated product or service delivery plan, but it needs to be real, not theoretical and it needs to be viable in the marketplace. People need to be willing to pay for it.

The minimum aspect of this requirement is actually a very good thing. Many of today’s most well known startups owe their success to their ability to add bells and whistles as they go along. Establish a customer/client/user base and then start making improvements and adding features.

  1. Like the best poker players, go all in.If you’re going to turn to any of the venture capital markets, you need to show your personal financial commitment. You need skin in the game. Invest your savings and bring in friends and family before you start knocking on the doors of investors.
  2. Surround yourself with great people.Are you able to recognize your weaknesses? Get people on board who make up for your shortcomings. Find people who have experience with startups and are willing to put in the time they require.

The original concept may be yours, but don’t let your pride get the best of you. Take the good ideas, no matter where they come from.

  1. Be ready to pivot.As you get more deeply into the process, you may find problems with your original concept or uncover new opportunities. A couple of Stanford grads were working on a competitor to Foursquare when they realized how much people like taking pictures of themselves and posting them on Facebook and Twitter. They pivoted and started what is now Instagram.

If a better idea comes up, don’t be afraid to leave your original plans at the altar. In the same way, the commercial landscape changes so quickly today, it’s possible that by the time you are ready to go to market, your market may have moved. Be willing to move with it.

A thread that goes through all of these is that you need to be the best version of yourself to lead a successful startup. A variety of personalities can pull this off, but each individual involved must settle for no less than his or her best.

Finally, if 2015 marks your first year of competing in the startup world and you fail, don’t worry. It takes most entrepreneurs two failures before they post a success.




  1. Arlene

    Previously commenting on if you had and interest in Podcast and here we are! Thanks for the post. Look forward to catching up with a cuppa soon.

    P.s. just downloaded your book!

  2. Pete

    You are average of 5 people around you. After reading it in your book, I went and did some research of how some of the great tech companies were started up by ex employees of PayPal, they made each other successful.

    I look forward to more of your posts.

    1. John

      I agree with you Pete. There are also endless list of people who became famous ...together. There is a program on BBC at the moment with Ed Byrne and Dara from Mock the week . They briefly spoke about where they found each other before being BBC presenter. Many of the BBC comedians have known each other from when they were starting out.

      It's hard at first but when you have the perfect group. That is all you need. One of the key to success.

      1. Pete

        Thanks John.

        I wonder what's more important. Is it what you know or who you know....or....what your unique group, knows together?

    2. Mousuf

      Thanks Pete and John. I look forward to more of your feedback. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email me.


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