Surviving the Startup Crash

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This did not advance humanity. Image Source: Computer History Museum


To paraphrase the great philosopher Freewheelin’ Franklin: vision will get you through times of no customers better than customers will get you through times of no vision.

  1. What (clearly defined) problems does the company solve?
  2. What are the shared values of the company and its people?
  3. How can people find meaning and relate to those values?


One of the many ways we sap meaning from people is to put them into roles with repetitive, boring work. Automate repetitive tasks and promote the people into more meaningful work.

Always Be Closing

Maybe you need (an unarmed) Alec Baldwin to yell this at you. Whatever it takes. Sell, sell, and sell some more. To do this, you must arm your sales team with the resources they need to effortlessly demonstrate your company’s value.

Product Improvements

You know the next valuation is going to be low(er). So why not actually improve your app and have something more valuable? Downturns are an excellent time to clean up all the crap in your app that is holding you back. Quit dickering around with every dumb customer feature request and go back and fix the big stuff.


When times are tight, buyers go bargain hunting. They expect every app, service agreement, and subscription to go farther, offer more, and solve more problems. If you are a special little unicorn app that only works in a narrowly defined set of requirements, then it is time to repackage yourself and broaden your appeal.

Partner Up

Rather than be a lone sinking ship, partner up with other sinking ships. This also can help with repackaging. If you can bring partners to the table that fill gaps in your offerings, then you have more to offer.

Be Brutally Honest

Unfortunately, tough times mean doing more with less people, resources, and time. Layoffs, cutbacks, and delays always feel bad.


Do not give up. Downturns are inevitable. Yet, nothing bad lasts forever. Startups can survive (even thrive) in bad times. Moreover, as the Wired article points out, troubled times can mint stronger companies. The key to coming out of this storm is keeping your eyes on the prize.



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