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Photo by Gonzalo Arnaiz on Unsplash

A founder I was meeting for the first time was telling me about her startup. She spent the first 15-ish minutes of our meeting describing her project. Then, once she’d told me everything she wanted to explain, she asked a question that, to her, seemed simple. She asked: “Why is nobody buying my product?”

It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked that same question by a founder. In fact, I get asked that question almost weekly. But something was particularly jarring about the way this founder asked. …


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Cold (e)mails… get it? ;-) [Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash]

As a founder, whenever people gave me advice about the best ways to meet potential investors, they always warned me not to send “cold emails.” Instead, I was told I needed to be introduced to investors through personal connections.

To be fair, It’s well-meaning and seemingly logical advice. …


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Image courtesy Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels

Take a moment to think about your favorite product. Maybe it’s your iPhone. Maybe it’s your Playstation. Maybe it’s your Tesla. Whatever it is, ask yourself this completely random question: could it have existed 500 years ago?

I realize that’s a ridiculous question, but I’m trying to make a point here, so bear with me.

The reason your favorite things couldn’t have existed 500 years ago is because startups don’t exist in a historical vacuum. They exist within the times and places in which they’re built because they rely on the unique infrastructures, problems, needs, and resources of their particular historical moments. …


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The Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde speaking at the 201 CeBIT conference

For most entrepreneurs, helping create a company worth billions of dollars would be the kind of distinction they’d proudly wear as a badge of honor. But Peter Sunde isn’t most entrepreneurs. In fact, he hates being called an entrepreneur.

Instead, Peter is a pirate. Well… not literally. If anything, Peter was more like the captain of a digital pirate ship that helped other people commit online piracy. That’s because Peter Sunde founded The Pirate Bay, the world’s most popular torrent search engine to enable (often illegal) file sharing.

Peter built The Pirate Bay because he was an outspoken advocate for the freedom of information, knowledge, art, media, and culture, and The Pirate Bay became his platform for implementing his ideals. …


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Photo by Jeremy McKnight on Unsplash

Successful entrepreneurs are good at asking questions about the world that other people never think to ask. These questions often reveal insights most people don’t see, and it’s what allows them to recognize unique entrepreneurial opportunities.

Asking these kinds of questions is a difficult skill to cultivate. …


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Image courtesy Sound On via Pexels

Nearly every day since I started teaching entrepreneurship at Duke, I’ve gotten some version of the following question:

“Can we meet to discuss my idea?”

I get it in-person. I get it via email. I get it via Twitter. It comes from founders, from students, from friends who know I do “entrepreneur-y” things, from entrepreneurs who randomly find me online, and dozens of other places. Every time I see the question, I shake my head and sigh.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love talking with entrepreneurs about their businesses. If I could clone myself a thousand times, I’d be thrilled to have all thousand of my clones meeting with entrepreneurs and doling out entrepreneurial advice all day. …


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Photo by Jan Baborák on Unsplash

Tagging things online is something most of us take for granted. We add tags to our Instagram posts. We add tags to our videos. We add tags to the contacts in our CRMs. In other words, all of us are constantly using tags to keep ourselves organized and help find things. And yet, if you’re like me, you probably never once wondered where or how tagging began. But, like all things human-made, someone had to invent it. That person happens to be a programmer and entrepreneur named Joshua Schachter.

Despite the fact that he invented tagging, Joshua is actually best known for creating something else. He was the founder of social bookmarking website del.icio.us back in 2003. The project helped usher in the age of Web 2.0, and it was so popular it was famously acquired by Yahoo! …


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Image courtesy @cottonbro via Pexels

At the end of October, 2019, I committed myself to posting at least two articles per week — roughly 100 articles — on Medium for an entire year. As I write this, I’ve reached my goal: 52 weeks of publishing, 106 total stories (I published three stories in a week a couple of times). What better way to celebrate than with an article describing some fo the most important lessons learned?

In other words, get ready for yet-another person to write yet-another mostly worthless article about “How to be a successful writer on Medium” article. You’re welcome!

But first, a quick bit of context…

I study and teach about social media at Duke University. Through my studies, I’ve learned a ton, but I’ve always had one huge gap in my knowledge: I personally never created large amounts of social media content. To correct this shortcoming, and to more fully understand and appreciate what social media influencers do every day, I decided I needed to become a social media content creator. …


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Image courtesy Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels

You already know building startups is hard. I knew it, too, back when I first started building my venture-backed tech companies. It didn’t stop me from trying, and it shouldn’t stop you, either. But here’s the part that’s easy to overlook: Since building startups is already ridiculously hard, we need to avoid doing stupid things that make our jobs even more difficult.

Yes, I realize this seems obvious. But the qualities that make entrepreneurs successful can also make us our own worst enemies. In fact, these days I meet with hundreds of entrepreneurs each year, and I see many of them unwittingly doing the same stupid things I’ve done during my career. In other words, many of the decisions entrepreneurs make aren’t “life-or-death” mistakes that guarantee failure. …


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Image courtesy of Rebcenter Moscow via Pexels

The dirty little secret of most new media technologies is that the stories of how they became mainstream are rarely as wholesome and altruistic as people tend to think. That’s because many of the earliest industries to adopt new media technologies are rarely mainstream. After all, if you’ve got a wildly successful mainstream business, why risk alienating your current users by trying something new? Instead, it’s in your best interest to maintain the status quo.

The Internet, being a popular media technology, is, of course, no exception. While today you probably think of the Internet as a resource for work, school, and to keep in touch with friends, in its earliest days, that’s not what a lot of people were using it for. …

About

Aaron Dinin, PhD

I teach entrepreneurship at Duke. Software Engineer. PhD in English. I write about the mistakes entrepreneurs make since I’ve made plenty. More @ aarondinin.com

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