There are no hard and fast rules for startup success. There I said it.

Over the past week, I have been spending more and more time at the Techstars “Bunker.” A garden level office space in a hidden spot in Boulder where ten teams of startup hopefuls have gathered to learn from startup veterans.

I have met with 3-4 of the teams in different capacities. Sometimes its a formal meeting, sometimes it was a quick connect in a hallway.

When I go to Techstars, I sit and I listen. I hear conversations that I have now heard dozens of times in different formats and in different places.

When I go to Techstars, I sit and observe. I see who is working with movement, and who is working to keep busy. Its always easy to pick out the real from the fake, the wheat from the chaff, the cream from the milk.

I have read some great accounts by previous teams. Their insights are key to understanding their potential. Their thoughts reveal their focus.

I have watched teams continue to grow past Techstars. I have listened to the roar of accomplishment by some, the pomp without the circumstance by others. I have seen the teams that have been so laser focused on succeeding, regardless of the challenge, that they appear to disappear from the public eye.

I have seen the teams where personal ego has destroyed collective success. Where talking about what they would like to be seems to never match what they are. The teams that spend time most of their time waving their hands and imploring you to not look at the Man Behind the Curtain until the time is right, and once the Man Behind the Curtain is revealed, the world realized not only is he just a man, but he is a man that we have all seen a hundred times before.

I have been asked if Techstars is different than the natural process of other startups. Does the cauldron that all Techstars teams are thrown in, accelerate the success or failure of the startup?

The short answer is no; all startups have a natural life. Some live forever and some are killed in their cribs.

I have been asked, what makes for startup success? Startup success revolves around the process not the product, and for true startup success, there are three simple rules:

1) Listen and absorb.

Spend time each day asking someone a question you would like the answer to. Dont always ask the same person. But do ask the same question to multiple people.

Absorb their answers. Dont run off and do them. You are not asking to be dictated to, you are asking for an opinion. An educated guess. A knowledgeable response. Absorb and classify answers as such.

2) Make Decisions. Live With the Consequences.

Dont take forever to make a decision, but dont make it too fast. Be knowledgeable. Be decisive. The difficulty is not making a decision, its living with the consequences. The first decision we all make, each day, is “should I get out of bed?” The real question is “Can I live with the consequences today will bring?”

Revel in the consequences. It is there that success and failure live, not in the decisions we make.

3) Move Through Failure.

Failure is a process. Every day, fail. Fail again. Learn. Then fail again. That process will lead you towards success more quickly than anything else. Mistakes are never bad. Repeating mistakes is the worst thing you could ever do.

As an added bonus, here is the best question you could ever ask a mentor or someone you are hoping to learn from: “What do you suck at?”

Take a moment to enjoy the process, the cadence, the rhythm of startups. Its a unique experience that only a few truly understand and appreciate.

  • SEO

    These are the three important stairs in one’s life.. Everyone should follow these three in order to get success and it’s absolutely right that we always learn through failures.. Until and unless there isn’t any failure in life we can’t recognize and realize the importance of “SUCCESS” in our lives..

  • I think you need to prepare so much for starting up… but really investigate the market and the cost of getting to market. I didnt do this and have a great site that I cannot afford to market as its just too competitive without spending millions.

  • Pingback: Learning to fail: Startups aren’t really trying unless their failing « Nickpoint()

  • Guest

    Good but brief

  • Guest

    Good but brief

  • Anonymous

    I think there are more then 3 rules but yet I guess if there are 3 effective rules they might just do the trick.
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  • i think positioning is the key.

  • Agreed.