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Don't shut up  

Top Sequoia partner advises startup founders to shut up:

Douglas Leone of Sequoia Partners just finished on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, and he had some interesting advice for young founders: stop talking.

(...) a couple of young smart people can create a beta Web site over a weekend and iterate from there. A lot of younger founders "don't know what they don't know," and that creates the temptation to talk too much.

Now, to be fair, I wasn't there at Douglas Leone's presentation, so I don't know how much Business Insider is taking things out of context - and to be fair, I am myself cherry-picking a few key quotes from the article, although I feel they illustrate the point being made fairly well. It's entirely possible that Douglas's advice was nuanced, contextual, and overall adds up to the same point I'll make below.

Here it is: as a new founder, what's going to kill you is not competition, it's yourself. You've got a thousand opportunities to make critical, fatal mistakes, and you don't even know what those are. So, as a new founder, the last thing you should do is shut up. Go out, talk to people, get feedback on your idea, your vision, your plans, your software, and so on. First mover advantage is largely a myth (and you're probably not the first mover anyway - and if you are, you might want to consider building a different product, one where you don't have to create a market as you go along, because that's hard).

Sure, there's a vanishingly small chance that someone will "steal your idea" or "copy your business over the weekend", but if that does happen, chances are it's going to happen anyway because your business is indefensible or you suck at execution. There's a 0.01% chance someone will do this - on the other hand, there's a 90+% chance that you'll screw up your business yourself. And the only way to decrease that 90% is to talk to people, get advice, mentorship, and so on.

So, definitely do not shut up when you're a new founder.

Is there a context where you should shut up? Of course. Wisdom is always contextual, and so is this advice. What Douglas may have been pointing towards (but this was lost in the Business Insider article) is that if your business is taking off, winning lots of clients, growing, and doing great - then you should "shut up". You should still talk with trusted advisors - ideally investors or people who are officially on your board of advisors, or close friends and mentors - but you should not go out of your way to give presentations at conferences and other events advertising that you're doing great and how you did it. That can only spawn competitors and eventually make your job harder.

So, if you're in the enviable situation of having a rapidly growing business, shut up. Everyone else should talk, talk, talk!

More from the library:
Working smarter in a startup
Outbound VC dialing
Idea reach and the cofounder myth