How to deal with conflicting startup advice

Entrepreneurs are faced with a wealth of advice these days from websites, videos, conferences, hackathons and even their own peers.


So what should you do when you are not sure someone’s advice is the right fit for your particular situation? StartupSmart spoke to two industry experts to find out how to navigate your way through conflicting advice.

1. Check the timeliness of the advice

Alan Jones, chief growth hacker at BlueChilli, told StartupSmart conflicting guidance is “definitely a problem” for startups. Jones points out that one way to figure out whether or not you should follow someone’s suggestions is to check the timeliness of their advice.


“Most advice has a use-by-date and a shelf life, because marketing conditions change and best practice changes,” he says.


“So check the ‘manufacturing date’ of your advice to see when it actually originated and whether your source is actually the originator or if this advice has been floating around being requoted for years.”

2. Look for key themes among a large number of people

Laura McKenzie, chief executive of Scale Investors, told StartupSmart she would encourage entrepreneurs to share their ideas with many people.


“People are very generous with their advice and you will learn a lot about your product market fit in doing that,” she says.


“If you speak to a number of people there will be key themes in their advice and those are probably the things to turn your attention to – others are just noise.”

3. Stay true to your vision

McKenzie also points out that founders need to stick to their guns and shouldn’t blindly follow lean startup books.


“You need to have moderate agreeableness,” she says.


“So take on board the advice but you’re the one who’s going to have to make decisions. So make those decisions, back yourself and get on with it.”

4. Check the source of the advice

Jones says although it may just be common sense, it is paramount to really consider who is giving the advice.


“First-order sources are the best in journalism and the best sources of startup advice too,” he says.


“Speaking to the guy who’s figured out a cool new way to micro-target your competitor’s customers and serve them a display ad campaign elsewhere on the web is better than speaking to a guy who read a blog post written by a guy who spoke to the guy.”

5. Consider whether there is an agenda involved

Jones says almost all advice comes with an attached agenda that may or may not be noticeable. Often the most agenda-free advice can come from other startup founders, but even that can be “skewed”.


“Founders who’ve been through an accelerator program tend to recommend that accelerator program to others because it helps justify their own prior decision and contributes to the future potential success of their own business,” he says.


“Founders who recommend a person or service provider may have formed a close friendship from working together they don’t disclose when they speak to you.”


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