“Sloppy New Year” for Startups: More Sameness, Tameness and Lameness? 

This New Years embrace customers, talk to them, and build something really great that customers will crave.


As a startup lifer who lost more than a few million bucks one spring 2000 afternoon, I’m always on the lookout for the next “pop” of the startup bubble that’s been inflating for more than five years now.

Ouch, I think that “popping” is real close, and for lots of reasons, beginning with “sameness, lameness, and tameness” that causes at least 90% of all startups to run out of money, sputter and die. (Here’s hoping you don’t work at one of’em.)

Truly great companies that endure for the long term are built on meaningful, disruptive innovation solutions to significant, serious, high-frequency problems needs confronted by zillions of people. Far too few startups identify those serious business opportunities and solve them with a one-two punch of disruptive innovation and relentless execution.

And the farther you get from risk-tolerant Silicon Valley, the fewer disruptors are growing.

Sadly, far too many startups fit the pattern I see repeatedly in my one-on-one conversations with more than 500 startups a year: 


AppAnnie.com currently tracks 5.8 million smartphone apps.  And the 1.3million apps available in July 2014 on iTunes, included 237,389 game apps, 131,581 for kids, and more than 8,000 apps to help create or save recipes.

How many games does a single planet need?? iTunes alone adds about 100,000 apps a month, by the way, including 450 more recipe apps alone!

How “hot” can that next food, taxi, gaming or e-commerce app can really be, whether measured by uniqueness or revenue potential.  Our bestselling Startup Owner’s Manual defines “hot” quite clearly: solving a serious, frequent problem faced by many, or filling a frequent urgent need that zillions of people will have again and again, for a long time.

Uniqueness is defined by customers, not entrepreneurs. How can anyone get excited about the next personal finance, web marketing or taxi dispatching tool with three or four cute new features.

Scores of niche versions of Linkedin, for example, have died painful deaths, trying to “do just what Linkedin does” for some subset of the business world served so well by the ubiquitous business networking tool.  And too darn many startups offer little more than a tweak or a niche in an effort to distinguish themselves.


One top VC says we perhaps see a dozen great companies emerge from the roughly 650,000 started annually in America alone.  And too often, they’re doing boring, un-techy things like preventing or curing diseases or solving complex “big data” challenges that just aren’t as sexy or well-publicized as the next “hot or not” dating app.

In my somewhat jaundiced view,  the startup world it’s far too cluttered with “wanrapreneurs” who fail to, or just don’t, recognize that startup success demands a tenacity, resiliency and energy unlike any traditional job short of combat infantryman.

Lots of enthusiastic founders “get out of the building” in startup training and acceleration programs, only to disappear quickly quietly from the scene as customers yawn about their big, big idea.  They aspire to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, and upon learning such a goal is as ephemeral as winning the Lotto, entrepreneurial zeal wanes quickly.

As the job market recovers, hopefully more of those wannabes turn instead to good old-fashioned W2 jobs, with predictability, stability and health insurance. It’s a place where 99+% of working folk belong, and in my view, these lesser entrepreneurs should go out and find regular jobs, clearing the clutter for those with the ideas, drive, and overwhelming ambition to build great companies.

Next page- Tameness and Solutions

Bob Dorfhttp://www.bobdorf.nyc
Bob Dorf is among the world’s leading Lean Startup and Customer Development experts, who trains and coaches startups throughout the world, with a particular focus on Latin America. Bob co-authored the Startup Owner’s Manual, a global bestseller, with startup legend Steve Blank. Now in 18 languages, the Manual details every step in transforming an idea into a repeatable, scalable, profitable business. Bob focuses particularly on training programs for the startup educators, coaches, and investors, and has done so repeatedly in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and many more. Hes also an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Columbia Business School. Earlier, Bob founded seven startups--“two homeruns, two base hits, and three tax losses.” His 30+ angel investments delivered 7 IPO’s and six disasters. Learn more at www.bobdorf.nyc or contact bob via [email protected] Website