HOWTO improve your startup's chances

Anil Dash has got ten dynamite top tips for people hoping to run a successful startup, based on his wide experience:

1. Be raised with access to clean drinking water and sanitation. (Every tech billionaire I've ever spoken to has a toilet!)

2. Try to be born in a region that is politically and militarily stable.

3. Grow up with a family that is as steady and secure as possible.

4. Have access to at least a basic free education in core subjects.

5 Avoid being abused by family members, loved ones, friends or acquaintances during the formative years of your life.

The other five are just as great!

Ten Tips Guaranteed to Improve Your Startup Success


  1. Yep, #1 is a biggie, which would be why it was made such a priority in the U.S.  Out here in “flyover country”, even here east of the Mississippi, there were people who didn’t have electricity until the late 60s and I had family members who didn’t have power until the 90s.

    I take exception to the notion that sanitation = toilet, because as I said in an earlier post my grandma was the one who bought my cousins and I computers when we were teens, and she didn’t have running water.  I get a minor chuckle when people claim my generation never used an outhouse.  They have no idea.  

    But then, I don’t run a startup…still, I had it way better than people in other parts of the world.  Way better than many fellow Americans, even.  If I ever find a way to “make it big”, one of the first things I want to do is give to local shelters.  Ugh.  The same week many of us were arguing about Donglegate and RPGMakerCampGate, my wife was telling me about a little girl who was talking at school about the things she did to her “daddy”s private parts, which caused consternation for more than one reason.  Daddy is in jail, so it can’t be him.  Mommy’s situation is such that “daddy” could be one of a few different men.  This is not an isolated incident.  This is why I express frustration on threads about how “rough” privileged kids have it.  You people have no freaking clue.  Yes, shame on trolls who make life rough on those kids, because a kid learning RPG Maker today could end up finding a way to drag Africa out of poverty later. But c’mon, people.
    I could get on a soapbox about how people out here have directly benefited from all those ’30s-present anti-poverty programs, and are now against them, but I won’t.  Not the right place for it.

      1. Oh, I could do more, but why?  It’s wasted breath for the most part.

        Actually, typing all that makes me wish I’d kept an accurate notebook of my Grandma’s stories about childhood, growing up in rural America during the Depression.

    1. >>>>”…..there were people who didn’t have electricity until the late 60s and I had family members who didn’t have power until the 90s…..”

      Many “Twilight Zone” episodes were set in hillbilly shacks, often not for any reason to do with the plot nor for comic or ironic effect.  It think it was just Rod’s way of saying “Hey, people still live like this!”

      Sadly many of these people who still wouldn’t have electricity without the federal government are now sitting at their PCs planning a revolution against…..something.

    2.  I hear ya. My sister is a primary school teacher in a rough bit of London, and she’s told me some nasty shit like.

  2. Ahh, refreshing.

    Remember, if you weren’t raised with access to clean drinking water and sanitation, keep trying until you are!  Believe in your success and it will become a reality!  The brick walls are not there to keep you out!

  3. Bullshit. This list is made up by socialist tax-loving goose-stepping brownshirts who want to who want us all to thank Adolf “Marx” Obummer for allowing us to suck on the government teat.

    Anyone would be able create a startup and transform it into a wildly-successful Fortune 500 company from an honest tax-free libertarian country like Somalia if they just had some American know-how and ingenuity.

    1.  Poe’s law is in full effect.  I’ve seen less reasonable protestations of very similar statements by people who believed them wholeheartedly.

      1. Oh, god, I have to try soooooo hard not to do Internet Yelling at them. I mean, I know it’s pointless, but…

          1. The benefits of being a dirty yoorpean commie with a pinko liberal family. It’s much nicer at christmas and suchnot ;)

  4. Is number #8 really as true as the rest?

    Has there never been a successful startup headed by a woman who does not “supress her identity”?  None at all?

    I’m asking, not disagreeing.  (Although I’m hoping it’s not true, I admit.)

    1. Yeah.  I mean, look at this:
      That’s a pretty lengthy list.  And when we get done celebrating peoples’ sexual orientation, their religions, their sex, their race, etc. has any work been done?

      Get back to your desk and produce some results, drone.  The money doesn’t earn itself.

    2. I’m not sure what “suppress your identity” is meant to mean in this context, but it certainly reads like an attempt to pull a pre-emptive “no true Scotsman” on any inconvenient counterexamples.

      1. I think it must mean “act like a man”, because only men make startups apparently.

        I can’t think of any way to interpret that statement that isn’t horribly sexist. 

    3. So what you are saying is that ~50% of successful startups are run by women, and comparable percentages apply to other hitherto marginalized groups?

      Exceptions don’t count.  Maggie Thatcher as UK PM did not mean women had equal opportunity from that point forward. 

      The point is that it is hard enough to get the mix of luck, cash, idea, timing and opportunity just right, and it is harder still to get those things when you are in a historically underprivileged group. 

      Progress has been made, which is a good thing, but we aren’t there yet.  Nitpicking on that point is just silly.

      1. The key phrase is “suppress her identity,” otherwise he could have left it at “be born male.” 

        I don’t know about the startup world, but the advice doesn’t hold for mainstream corporate America, where women lose either way: act feminine (too dainty!) or ape the “numbingly conventional… dominant masculinity” (ballbuster!)

        The few people I do know in startups/small tech businesses are all pretty cool and wouldn’t put up with any sexist bullshit, much less engage in it themselves. It’s disappointing if they’re not representative of the subculture at large. Are there that many jock-dudebro types around or are they mainly confined to VCs?

    1.  How about “Be born?”  I recall 100,000,000 potential candidates that didn’t survive the interview process that fateful day.

      1. “Gender stereotyping” means females are more likely to be aborted, to be fed less food than male family members, to be kept home from schooling to do housework and childcare instead, to be sexually abused, to be working in ways that bring them in closer proximity to disease (such as nursing and childcare), to be raised as being “less than” males, etc.  So, yeah, it’s a bit of a hindrance….in almost all societies.

      2. Well considering that its likely not that fun being female in the countries where cholera is active, I’d say yes?

        (I’d actually take cholera over being female in the DRCongo.)

        1. I think the question is whether you’d take being male in the DRCongo (with or without cholera) over being female in the US…

          1. Well it wouldn’t be, except for some reason we’re being asked to consider “be born a man” over “be raised with access to clean drinking water and sanitation”.

          2. No, we’re not. Women in countries without access to clean water and sanitation are worse off than men in those countries.

          3. Yes, we are. Anil Dash wrote “Be raised with access to clean drinking water and sanitation.” Missy Pants wrote ‘Really, number one should be “Be born a man.”‘

          4. @Antinous_Moderator:disqus But are men with no access to clean water better off than women with access to clean water, all else being equal? That’s what she’s claiming. It’s not just that women are at a disadvantage at all, which is pretty much accepted by everyone here. She’s saying that she’d have more chances if she were a man and (choose one of) was black, lived as a refugee or an illegal immigrant, had no access to sanitation, lived in a war zone, had no basic education, spoke a minority language, was physically disabled… than if she were a woman.

          5. But are men with no access to clean water better off than women with access to clean water, all else being equal?

            It’s an inane question that has no point except derailing the discussion.

      3. Gender stereotyping is a problem in the privileged world. Murder, torture, slavery, and neglect are the “equivalents” in other parts of the world.

      4. Women in India are more likely to get prenatal care when pregnant with boys, according to groundbreaking research that has implications for girls’ health and survival.  The study by Leah Lakdawala of Michigan State University and Prashant Bharadwaj of the University of California, San Diego, suggests sex discrimination begins in the womb in male-dominated societies.

  5. #9. needs to cover mental, emotional, and relational norms, and sensory defensiveness, as well as physical norms.

    #5. needs to cover school bullies, teachers, and administrators. growing up with ptsd is not fun and is likely to make it harder to deal with other disabilities.

    1. Well, the only successful startup I personally have watched complete was entirely driven by a person who is definitely not (either then or now) conformant to mental or physical norms.  (He is a straight white male, though, so he’s still in the lowest difficulty setting.)

      I’m honestly not sure it’s possible for a “normal” person to begin a startup.  I mean, the normal people don’t do this, right?  Normal people go work at megacorp, or do whatever their parents do, rather than gambling everything on a dream.  People who do startups are by definition inherently outside the mental “norm”.

      1. A lot of the people who trip on #5 are tyrannical and masochistic self-sabotaging middle managers who promote the venomous no-show employees, because these baby viper underlings are just like mommy’s kisses.

          1. “Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness.”

          2. Nice quote : )

            I have a feeling there’s quite a bit more stuff waiting to make folks mad than in Pascal’s day, too…

  6. I’d definitely add “people in positions of authority over you” to #5, which I think would cover your points.

    edit: I swear, I hit “reply” to Marja Erwin’s post. Thanks, Disqus.

    1.  You have to ctrl-X the text from the box at the bottom of the screen, then go back up, click ‘reply’ again, then ctrl-V. Because Disqus hates you, that’s why.

  7. The author has quite a resume of board appointments and consulting gigs and seems incredibly impressed with himself. Perhaps the first item on his list should be “think you are smarter than everyone else”.

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