How to critique a startup

This was originally published in my free weekly newsletter, How It Actually Works.

People love to make fun of “dumb” startups.

You might remember Juicero, the $500 juicer whose juice bags could actually be squeezed by hand for free.

Mocking these companies is practically a sport, where civilians & tech journalists alike compete to show how smart they are for predicting the demise of a given startup.

But that’s fucking stupid.

It’s easy to make fun of startups. By design most of them go to zero.

Saying a startup is dumb is like predicting a pregnant woman is going to have a healthy child.

You can know nothing about babies and you’ll still almost always be right.

And so it goes with startups. If you made fun of every startup you ever saw you’d be right 95% of the time. And you’d have added nothing to the world.

What’s actually useful:

  • identifying which startups will succeed
  • finding hidden talent
  • helping the startups whose mission you believe in
  • giving thoughtful feedback
  • shutting up when you have nothing to add

Almost all critiques are really about making yourself look smarter.

So unless a company is hurting people who have no way to opt out, either lend a hand or get the fuck out of the way.

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