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Sep 15, 2020    Burn Book

Startup Downfalls & The Misdirectional Excuses of 2020


Normally our blog posts are pretty enthusiastic, happy even, about industry churnings, marketing strategy trends, and of course our love of creepily stalking startups in the s—show that has been 2020. But today we just need to rant for a minute about some excuses we’ve been seeing too often, particularly from failed startup founders in their post-mortems.

We won’t scoot around the fact that real, unprecedented events in 2020 are real things, and small businesses have not been close to first on the list of getting help/leniency. This is an uncontrollable world event. No amount of savings, planning, or predictions can really save some startups from being killed by (let’s just pick one crisis) Covid-19. Theoretically speaking (and as we can all see IRL), this makes sense. It’s sad, but at least it makes sense why businesses went down.

Not to get philosophical, but what even is time?

Here’s what does not make sense and is a sad excuse from startup founders on why they failed: timing. Zeitgeist. Whatever they call it, so many fall back on this excuse as if making “the zeitgeist” understand you isn’t core to owning a business at all. Sorry, entrepreneurs of the world that wrote a post mortem this year, but “timing” is not a real reason. Here’s why.

There is no wrong timing. Period. Timing can appear wrong when you haven’t done the work to make YOUR timing work. What startup post mortems really mean when they cite “timing” or “the zeitgeist wasn’t ready for us” as their reason for failure is that they didn’t prioritize, or didn’t know how to prioritize, guaranteed understanding from their target audience.

There is no wrong timing with the zeitgeist.

To say there is wrong timing is lazy. Because if you were really that new, innovative, unprecedented, and amazing, of COURSE no one is ready for you! How could they be? You make them ready through strategically crafted launch plans, early growth marketing strategies, and a strong branding foundation so that people can discover, learn, and adopt your innovation fast. To blame the zeitgeist for your lack of planning and branding strategy is putting the blame on, quite literally, everyone but yourself.

This may seem harsh, especially in this climate, but we’re not about to let hard-earned, strategically branded businesses get buried honorably in 2020 alongside a bunch of unprioritized leaders that also just happened to go down this year.

Not everyone knows how to prioritize marketing/branding (read: zeitgeist) strategy, but that’s why delegation is so crucial in startup land. Having a dev team separate from your customer service team separate from your investor schmoozing team is one way everyone knows how to delegate and prioritize. This particular failure is from leaders not knowing the importance of branding (namely communication, advertising, and marketing) their own existence. Because that’s how they could have “gotten the zeitgeist ready.” That “other” team, the team of people that make sure you are received right and well, is looked over as just the people that make Facebook ads or the people that taught us how SEO actually works. In reality, those were the people that could have saved you.

We’ll stop ranting now, sure. But we won’t stop pointing out in our own largely-unfiltered branding where startups go wrong, because we’ve been around 10 years seeing it happen to our client’s competitors.

In the grave of 2020 startups, pay homage to the ones that fell victim to an actual unprecedented global catastrophe, not to the people deflecting their actual mistakes. Learn from them. Grow from them. We’ll be here when it’s your turn to be the decision maker, although given our track record and even in 2020, we’re booked through the next quarter. Peace.

Let Your Curiosity Take Control