The 5 Things A Startup Founder Dreads Hearing The Most & How To Respond

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It’s not easy being an entrepreneur – living in your mum’s kitchen, spending your life racing from one pitch to the next, and constantly revising and pivoting the business model.

Yup – kitchen, pitchin’ and switchin’ – is bitchin’!

And still worse, it can all come tumbling down at any time.
Yes, of course you start with the foundations, but building a startup is a race against time as much as anything. Show me a founder who has spent 5 years painstakingly writing and rewriting their pitch deck, writing and re-writing their code, interviewing and re-interviewing potential staff, and I’ll show you somebody who has just pissed 5 years of their life away. You have to be able to take decisions and move on fast.

The truth is, you have to constantly keep your ear to the ground, tonto style, to try to decipher the signs of how your business is truly progressing. What you hear will be faint, it may seem unthreatening, but that tittle tattle, tittle tattle you hear is, in reality a big fuck-off horde of wild horses ridden by an amalgam of your worst enemy, your nemesis, your ex, that guy who seems to follow you around every co-working space in London whistling under his breath and your eternally disappointed father who repeatedly tells you to “just get a real job – your idea’s rubbish!”

So you must pay attention. The reality is that this horseman of the apocalypse is a figment of your imagination; the people around you – even the whistling guy – love and support you – but hey, it wouldn’t be fun if they didn’t make your bowels empty and teeth chatter every so often, would it now?

So here’s our guide to the 5 worst things you can hear as a startup founder, how to react to them, and what to tell yourself, and how best to reply.

1. It’s already been done – better than you are doing it.

How to react? Nod sagely

What to tell yourself? Anything but “has it? Shit!”

How best to reply? “You mean done like how MySpace was in the social media game…when Zuckerberg was still in nappies?”


2. The investors liked your idea – but they see things a little differently.

How to react?  Smile and nod sagely.

What to tell yourself? I know more about my product than any investor will ever know – I’m Bilbo fucking Baggins, with the ring baby!

How best to reply? Say “of course they do, its only natural they would feel that way…at this stage”.


3. Ever thought about asking for your old job back?

How to react? Punch them in the nuts! Just kidding, jack the smile up a notch, and make each nod a little more imperceptible than the last.

What to tell yourself? Conjure up an image of your last day at your last job – how did you feel? Sad? Like you wanted to stay there? Exactly.

How best to reply? “Buddy, I still get 10 missed calls every day from the old boss – he wants to invest.”


4. They’re looking for the “X Factor” and they’re not sure your idea has it.

How to react? Huge smile – was that a nod or a tic (facial tics are manna from heaven for any startup founder. They have the power to put everyone ill at ease).

What to tell yourself? So I’m not Matt Cardle – or Rhydian – can I still live with myself? Good.

How best to reply? “Good, good…that’s exactly what I wanted them to think!”


5. Sorry this is so last minute, but the investors are pulling out.

How to react? Put your hands in your pockets and gently squeeze them into fist, digging your fingernails into your palms – it’s ok to draw blood just this once.

What to tell yourself? It’s for the best – I need to work with people who share my passion for this project.

How best to reply? This may sound like the nadir, but really this is where the journey starts, because from now on, every single time, what you tell yourself, is exactly what you should say.


And…relax! You made it – startups are a journey of discovery; yeah they’re hard work, yeah they might fail faster than a chimpanzee on stilts, but ultimately, you get to experience a journey as intense as it gets – and make some friends along the way too! Nobody can ask for more than that – the only time you need to worry, and it’s not even a worry, it’s just a sign that the journey might nearly be over, is when you have to ask yourself if you still have the same passion you had when you started. If the answer is “no”, then and only then, and no matter what stage you reached, can you legitimately ask yourself if it might be time to quit?

Keep on hustlin’

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