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This is where most startups go wrong

October 27, 2015, 3:19 PM UTC
Courtesy of Thalmic Labs

The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What are some common mistakes young entrepreneurs make?” is written by Stephen Lake, cofounder and CEO of Thalmic Labs.

During a past venture, one of the biggest lessons I learned was to get the right team in place before trying to go anywhere. Author Jim Collins hit the nail on the head when he wrote, “Start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.”

When you’re starting a company, you want to work with people you get along with, people you like, and people who are smart. My cofounders were my classmates in the University of Waterloo’s mechatronics engineering program, and we were close friends for years before starting Thalmic. Working and living together gave us a ton of experience collaborating on projects, which allowed us to learn each others’ strengths and weaknesses.

When starting a business with friends, you definitely need to know that you can separate personal life and business life, and get along with them in both respects. If you don’t mesh well on smaller projects, chances are you aren’t going to be able to run a company together.

Starting a business is hard, and it’s very much a roller coaster, so it’s important you and your team share the same core values. There will be good days and bad days, and when you trust and respect each other enough to drop the gloves and debate strategy until your voices are hoarse in the boardroom, you can walk out as friends and grab a drink after. Look for people with whom you’ve successfully battled adversity, met impossible deadlines, or overcome what you thought would be insurmountable challenges. It’s easy to work well with people when the times are easy, but what’s really important is finding people you know you’ll get along with when the times get hard.


Your motivation for starting a company needs to be clear. My advice to new entrepreneurs is always this: Go out and tackle a challenge that you’re especially passionate about, and/or one you have some competitive advantage in solving. When the days and nights get long and things get tough, you’ll need this passion to pull you through. Building a company in an area that solely seems “hot” or financially attractive — but one in which you have no specific experience or interest — is often a losing endeavor.

Read all responses to the Entrepreneur Insider question: What are some common mistakes young entrepreneurs make?

Doing these 3 things will destroy your startup by Michael Gasiorek, editor-in-chief of Startup Grind.

The avoidable mistake every entrepreneur makes by Andrew Filev, founder and CEO of Wrike.