The Ultimate Anti-Guide to Building a Startup (That Actually Works)

3 min readNov 15, 2023

Validating Problems, Not Pitches: The Secret to Discovery-Driven Development

© Edison Ade. Illustration of Anti guide for startups.

You’ve probably heard the hype — startups are the future, they’ll change the world, yada yada. But scratch the surface, and most “startup guides” tell the same old story: come up with an idea, write a business plan, get funding, hire a team, scale fast.


What they don’t say is that startups are really about plunging headfirst into the unknown and learning through failure. The Lean Startup shows us it’s about customer development, not business plans. Steve Blank reminds us to get out of the building to discover your unique value proposition.

So let’s ditch the puff pieces and talk real startup. Here’s an anti-guide to show what it’s really about.

Forget Ideas, Validate Problems Ideas are easy. Everyone has a million of them. But what problem are you actually solving? Steve Jobs didn’t invent technology, he identified pain points people had and made intuitive products for them.

So, instead of daydreaming up ideas, talk to potential customers. Ask questions, really listen to frustrations. Your job isn’t coming up with inventions, it’s validating real problems worthy of solutions.

Ship Garbage, Get Feedback

Once you identify an issue, ship something — anything — to start getting feedback ASAP. Eric Ries says MVPs should be launched with “minimum effort, not minimum feature”.

Your early efforts will likely be trash. That’s ok! Shipping junk fast is better than polishing turds for months. Remember, validation trumps perfection. Learn from honest feedback to iterate rapidly.

Embrace Pivots

No plan survives first contact with customers. Forget stubbornly chasing something that isn’t working. Pivot hard and fast by testing new problem/solution fits based on learning.

Great startups don’t stubbornly force-fit; they respond fluidly to feedback. Be willing to change core aspects like your mission based on what you discover about real users.

Revenue Trumps Growth




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