Silly startup mistakes are a dime a dozen. We’re not fans of “startup playbooks,” at StartupYard. Checking off a list of stuff you have to do doesn’t make the difference between a fast growing company and one that is dead on arrival.
That being said, there are plenty of stupid startup mistakes that are easy to avoid. So easy, in fact, that will take you just 5 minutes to fix some of them. Here are 6 of those silly startup mistakes, plus why they’re silly, and how to fix them (in no particular order):
6 Startup Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)
1. Update Crunchbase, Angellist, Facebook, LinkedIn
You know what I and every other startup investor will do when we hear the name of an interesting startup? The same thing you would do: Google it. What shows up in a google search is very important for your first impression – the thing most people will see before anything else.
Here’s a typical experience: A colleague from another accelerator asks me if I have heard of Company X. I Google it, and first thing I see is a search suggestion to change the name to something similar that has more results. Bad sign so far. Hopefully your website is at least in the first page of results. I take a brief look at the website, then go back to the search.
Next, I skim down the list of sites looking for one of the above listed profiles, and check to see how old it is, any recent changes, and any important info. This is where many, many startups go wrong. The info is old, it’s outdated, the profile is inactive, or it’s just not there.
This is not a dealbreaker for me or most people, but imagine you’re in a list of 200 companies I’m looking at. I can find decent information on 100 of them. I only need to pick 50 to contact. What am I going to do with the company that has no relevant data available? Probably I’m going to put it aside. Plenty of fish in the sea.
Keeping these data sources up to date takes a few minutes every few months at most. So you might as well do it. Remember: only one contact can change your company’s future. So don’t make it harder for me.
2. Fix Your Open Graph Meta Tags
Here is a detailed look at how Open Graph meta tags work. The short version of the story is that 3rd parties, like social media and search platforms, use metadata, supplied by your website or encoded in content you share, to display information about the site or the content on the 3rd party platform.
Think of metadata as an album cover that goes along with whatever you post on social media, or in every link of yours that is shared by someone else. What happens if there are no open graph tags on your site and content? Anything shared about you comes along with a handy blank image and no description. Very professional.
How do you fix it? This isn’t a step-by-step guide, but we have a startup for that! start by checking your site at Testomato.com. It takes 30 seconds, and they’ll tell you if your site is in serious need of help when it comes to metadata (and many other problems).
Pro-Tip: SEO Plugins like Yoast for WordPress help you easily create and validate meta tags for content and pages. Which brings us to our next item:
3. Install Free or Premium SEO Software on your Site
We use WordPress at StartupYard, and believe it or not, I strongly recommend that our startups do the same, or at least choose an easy-to-use website builder with plenty of plugins available.
It’s for reasons like this: free software like Yoast SEO, which can dramatically improve your website’s visibility in Google search, and also helps you make sure your content and pages are tagged properly, in the right format, optimized for the right keywords, and well written and formatted as well. Their pro-version does even more, like setup redirects for you.
With the right setup in place, it takes an extra two minutes on a blog post or a new landing page to make sure everything is working properly, and that your customers can actually find in the future. Thanks to Yoast, StartupYard now ranks highly for a number of key search terms that we know startups are using.
4. Make Yourself Easy to Reach
My God, is this a bigger problem than you can imagine. As a scout for tech talent and startups, I’ve spent ridiculous amounts of time playing detective to try and figure out how to contact startup founders without landing in their spam folders, being ignored, or reaching the wrong person.
Keep this important information in mind: You are a startup founder. Not a rockstar. Don’t make it difficult for people to figure out how to talk to you. You might even *gasp* share your phone number as well. I like to know I can at least call someone if absolutely necessary.
Here are a handful of things I wish no startup would ever do on their website until it becomes absolutely necessary.
- Contact forms instead of email addresses – If there’s a better way of showing people that you aren’t accessible, I don’t know what it is. I hate filling these forms, and in my experience, 9/10 times there isn’t a reply anyway.
- Info@ email addresses – Don’t do this. Just don’t do this. Who gets an email sent to info@? As far as I know, it goes right to your spam folder, or to an intern, or a customer service rep. Info@ for a company of under 10 people is just putting out a sign saying: “we don’t want to hear from you.” Put the founders’ email addresses on the site. Let investors (and customers) contact any of them. A pre-revenue company cannot afford to screen emails.
- Auto-responders – I hate this. Again, if you’re a company of 3 people, you don’t need an autoresponder. Just reply to emails. Reply to all emails that are specifically addressed to you, even if your answer is just “not interested, thank you.” Just because your mail client has it as a feature doesn’t mean you should use it.
But what about all the spam, you say? What about when I *am* a rockstar, and my email is swamped with customer questions? There’s an app for that: it’s called email forwarding. Create a new email address that is to be shared only for professional reasons, and forward all emails sent to your public address to a special folder in your new inbox. Check it regularly, and create rules for individual senders who are still using your old address, to route them to your inbox. Done.
5. Print and Carry Business Cards
Hello, yes it’s 2018 and I’m telling you to get business cards. Yes, people can just send you an email, and you can add them on LinkedIn, and, and, and.
The thing is that some innovations are so good, so intrinsically elegant, that they don’t go away even when there are “better” alternatives available for less. To me, carrying a good business card is like wearing a tasteful watch, or having a firm handshake. It’s proforma, but it’s the good kind of proforma.
Just consider some of the reasons why a business card works centuries after its invention:
- It creates credibility. A person who spent money on business cards is taking things seriously. It also makes you seem like a prepared and professional person.
- It gives me a way of remembering your name while I’m talking to you. Believe me, that helps a lot of people. Also, it helps me understand your job and business without having to ask.
- It helps you stand out. Don’t get *too* gimmicky with your cards, but a bit of creativity shows you care.
- It makes it easy for a person to share your contact details with somebody else. That’s what networking is for. A business card makes it easy: “hey I thought of you when I met this person.”
- It makes it easy to start a conversation. Shy people sometimes come up to me saying “Can I have your business card?” This happens often after I’ve just spoken in public, or met a bunch of people at once. Those who don’t want to monopolize your time can take your card, and you can then start a conversation with them if you wish.
It takes 5 minutes to order good-looking business cards online. No excuses.
6. Fix your Email Footers
Kind of like business cards, this is a proforma thing that is really important, particularly because of modern technology.
Having clearly formatted footers in your email makes it super easy for someone to track down your contact details by searching their inbox. Even better, modern smartphones can use this data to provide contact info on incoming calls, and even help people find your phone number without digging through their emails.
It’s also a bit of much needed context when you’re sending messages or replying to large group messages. The worst thing that happens in those situations is that somebody without their name in the email address itself replies without a name in the footer either. You annoy me, whoever you are.
As a bonus, you can use your footers as guerilla marketing as well. Anytime someone forwards an email or you reply to a group, you can include a link to your product with a tagline. That’s nice, isn’t it?
Do You Have More Startup Mistakes That Take 5 Minutes to Fix?
Tweet it to us at @startupyard, and we might add it to this list!
Ready to Apply to StartupYard?
We’re looking for startup founders in Crypto, AI, IoT, and AR/VR!
Get started applying to StartupYard Batch 9. Applications close January 31st, 2018.