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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

Startups Shouldn't Follow Trends

One of the benefits of being based in Cape Town, South Africa - and thus very far away from any major tech hub - is that there's no mainstream trends or hype that has any significant influence on the way we go about our business. To this day, this has given us a huge advantage on so many levels; most of which is centered around jumping into the deep-end and just swimming.

Founding a startup is the obvious trendy thing to do these days. As with any other trend, "hipster entrepreneurs" have flocked to the online world, wanting in on the action. Naturally because this it is very cool to do so.

The problem with this "me-too" approach is that many startups aren't solving the best ideas or have sacrificed their creativity in favour of a landgrab within the startup space. If I look at AngelList or at the startups that get their funding rounds publicized on TechCrunch, it's normally 50-50 whether the idea will induce me rolling my eyes, because the idea is either just too generic, plain stupid or never likely to enable the building of a sustainable business.

Stop doing things just because they're trendy and mainstream media seems to reward it with publicity. It's not clever business.

Don't raise funding now if you can bootstrap. Don't implement lean startup methodologies just because Eric Ries says so; do so because it makes sense for your business. Heck, build your new web app in .NET if you believe that's what's gonna be the best for your startup. But for crying out loud, stop doing things that are just trendy.

Maybe my geographical "disadvantage" made me more battle-hardened in this regard, but because of it I had to figure out every move & decision based on the merit.

And if you're into being part of mainstream trends, you should be reminded of at least one other: most startups fail. In my opinion, you're thus better off figuring things out in your own way and failing / succeeding on terms that actually make sense (compared to those dictated by trends).

Buck trends.

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