Common Mistakes Startups Must Avoid

You’ve got your big idea and it’s moving forward. You’re researched and prepared, and ready for take off. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, while it’s incredibly important to stay positive and focused, we must also be realistic, and the fact is, in the world of startups an awful lot of things could go wrong. That’s the bad news. But the extremely good news is that by knowing exactly what could go wrong, you can make every effort to ensure that those things don’t actually happen.

In fact, whatever problem you might encounter, you can be sure that someone, somewhere, has had similar issues with their new business. From startups in Boston, to sole traders in Bangkok, you’ll find the same stories. And that’s a good thing, because it means that instead of learning from your mistakes, you can learn from other people’s mistakes.

Here are some things to avoid, when launching a new business.

Not Testing or Adapting

If you’re offering a service, then you can create a simple, lightweight version first, and have people try it out. If you’re making a physical product, you need to be distributing prototype versions. Keep in mind MVP: Minimum Viable Product. But consider that this concept can also be applied to services. What is the minimum viable version of the thing you’re offering, that you can get out there and have people using?

And once you’ve got people actually engaging with your product or service, you need observation and feedback. Gather as much data as you can, because you want to know everything that was right and wrong with the customer experience. The reason for that is so that you can adapt your offering. Is it possible that you get everything right, first time, with no tweaks required? Put it this way: it’s not impossible.

But, essentially, you should be expecting to make changes according to the feedback you receive from your testing. Be thorough in the trial phase, don’t be afraid to make bold alterations if necessary, but don’t make changes just for the sake of doing something. That covered, you should be good to go at launch.

Don’t Go It Alone

You might be an independent, self-reliant person. You might know about all aspects of running a business, and have mind-blowing levels of expertise and business savvy. But that’s not the point. Just because you’re proficient at everything, doesn’t mean you have the endurance, or the hours in the day, to actually, physically do all those things. And besides which, it’s a rare (perhaps non-existent) person, who has top-level capability in all aspects of founding and running a business.

So, as far as you can within your budget, take on help and build your team. Certainly, you can keep your group lightweight and minimal. In fact, that’s a good way to start: streamlined and with nothing wasted, so that everyone knows their role and performs it efficiently.

And that leads to another important issue. When you’re hiring, take the time to be extremely careful, and only recruit people you’re feel certain are not only proficient, but are as driven and committed as you are, and who, crucially, you can get along well with on a daily basis. This last point is sometimes overlooked, because it’s so subjective, but it can make all the difference.

Don’t Forget the Power of Networks

If you already have strong business connections, then don’t be afraid to pull in favors. And if you can leverage your connections to build further connections, then go ahead and do so.

In general, you need to be reaching out in good faith, and building partnerships and trust. So if you accept a favor, then always pay it back with interest. Essentially, though, networks empower all members, who can grow together and become greater than the sum of their parts. Business often revolves around competition, but it’s not a zero-sum game. Figure out where working together is mutually beneficial, and which of your peers you share a similar mindset with. By building honest relationships within the startup community, opportunities will become increasingly apparent, and unexpected doors might open.

Don’t Fear Setbacks

Is your venture going to succeed? The truth is, you don’t yet know, and that’s fine. In fact, that’s what makes what you’re doing worthwhile, and an exhilarating adventure. After all, if you knew with absolute certainty what was about to happen, would you even feel motivated to try?

The reality is that we endure setbacks because we have attempted something difficult and potentially rewarding. And the more audacious what you’re attempting is, the more comfortable you must be with things not always going to plan. Anyone who starts their own business is taking a risk, but perhaps a greater risk would be in never trying at all. Because, ultimately, however your venture proceeds, you will be gaining invaluable lessons along the way.

Blockchain and Education

It was a different story just a few years ago, but at this point, there are few people who haven’t at least heard of blockchain technology.

Which is not to say that many people are fully aware of what it actually is, or how it can be used. It’s a fair guess that a large number of people would associate it solely with bitcoin, or perhaps cryptocurrencies and the wider world of fintech.

But in the coming months and years, it will become increasingly clear that blockchain technology brings extensive possibilities, across a range of fields. It’s already causing a stir, and significant spending, in the art world, and it will bring about changes in both the healthcare and education industries.

What is blockchain?

In case you’re not sure, blockchain technology is a kind of ledger system. It’s decentralized, meaning all the data is distributed across multiple nodes. It’s immutable, meaning that data is locked in and permanent. And it’s trustless, meaning you’re not relying on anyone to verify your transactions, you can interact with others directly and securely.

Additionally, second generation blockchain technologies such as Ethereum brought in smart contracts. These are, basically, programs stored on the blockchain that execute when certain conditions are met, allowing for the automation of agreements, and creating a guarantee for all parties that outcomes will occur as agreed.

What, then, can all this do for education?

Record Keeping

The approach to education nowadays is not as it used to be. People may take all manner of courses, in various places, picking up multiple skills and qualifications.

It would make sense, in this case, to have all your educational data available whenever you need it, in your own personal record. You want to be able to get your hands on it at any time, without having to go round all the institutions you’ve ever interacted with. And of course, you want it to be secure and accurate.

Well, blockchain solves all of this.

Utilizing blockchain technology, a streamlined process can be created, in which all your information is under your control, external to educational facilities themselves, and can be accessed without needing to apply or pay for administrative assistance. And your records will all be trustworthy, verified, and permanent.

And it works for instructors, too. Whether you’re an online language tutor, or a music teacher, or a university professor, a record of your credentials can all be there, for you to access and utilize to your advantage.


Blockchain is closely associated with tokenization, and tokens can be used as currencies and assets, and means of exchange and reward. What we might see this used for in education is to create some degree of gamification while studying.

Micro-rewards are simultaneously satisfying, motivational, and a good means of tracking one’s progress. As in games, where rewards are more often than not integral to the play structure, so it can be in academia.

Tokens can be distributed and earned, and incorporated into learning and progress dynamics in whatever creative ways course planners might come up with, adding incentives and a new angle to the learning experience.

Tokens could also be used as functioning currencies, and have real value of their own.

Gamification happens all the time in the ways we interact on social media, often without us really noticing, and the psychology of the process is, of course, not something that only came along with blockchain.

Play as a means of making progress has always existed in education, too, as any teacher who knows how to make lessons fun and rewarding can tell you.

And from such playfulness, can come meaningful, tangible achievements.

Positive disruption

Call it disruption, call it innovation or a shake up, call it whatever you prefer, the point is this: blockchain brings a new way of doing things.

What this results in, is difficult to predict, but that’s the point. When the future is opened up, and new technologies experimented with, we don’t yet know where they will lead. But if we remain open-minded, then the opportunities are there.

Blockchain is strongly associated with decentralization, personal autonomy, and seamlessness. A strong likelihood is that the changes to education brought about by blockchain will move in these directions.

Borderless universities, operating anywhere and everywhere? Sounds plausible.

Students able to mix-and-match courses, in order to tailor-make an education that fulfills their professional requirements? Also likely.

Educators and learners easily matching up directly? That’s the way things are already moving.

What blockchain will likely bring, is flexibility, and that’s precisely in line with our current social ethos.

Lower costs

One more thing, and it’s a simple but crucial one, is that blockchain can work to lower costs.

It minimizes the need for centralized authorities and administrators. The ledger is there, to be accessed independently. Smart contracts allow for increased automation.

Blockchain brings efficiency and elegance, and lightens the load. Adoption in education, as elsewhere, is set to enable considerable improvements to the industry.

Health and Happiness: What We Can Learn from Sweden

Scandinavians are notoriously happy people. People from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland top the global World Happiness Report every single year. For those of us who live in ‘the greatest country in the world’, it can be difficult to comprehend why Americans fall behind our peers to come in at 14th place in terms of happiness. Even Austria, Australia, and Ireland are ahead of us. Considering that many of the Scandinavian countries spend almost half the year in the frigid cold and perpetual darkness, how could they possibly be so content?

Happiness is for Everybody

Sweden has one of the highest income tax rates in the world, with people paying approximately 52 percent tax on annual income over 537,200 SEK ($61,245). However, it is a tax that people seem more than willing to pay. Here is why. In 2019, Swedish public expenditure accounted for 49.3 percent of the country’s GDP. Included in this is 19 percent of the GDP, or 956.8 billion SEK ($109 billion), spent on social protection such as old-age pensions, family benefits, and unemployment support. Education accounted for 6.9 percent, covering everything from preschool to higher education.

Indeed, life in Sweden comes with a wide range of government benefits. First of all, education is free. From the age of six up to college and university, tuition is paid for by the government. From preschool to a master’s degree, the idea of racking up debilitating debt to learn something is practically unheard of. The law of Jante, or the Jantelagen mentality, is central to Scandinavian contentment. It encourages humbleness and emphasizes collective success over individual achievement, building a culture of equality and community on all levels of society.

Aside from ensuring that its citizens have access to the best possible education, the Swedish government also allows them to focus on family. A generous joint parental leave and allowance or föräldrapenning of 480 days is granted for each new child, providing a couple or a single parent with up to 80 percent of their income for most of the period. After that, child allowances, subsidized daycare, and free health and dental services for minors make it easier for parents to afford to raise children.

According to the OECD Better Life Index, only 1 percent of Swedish people work very long hours, compared to the 11 percent of Americans who do. In fact, many offices and businesses close before 5 p.m. to ensure that employees have ample time to spend with their families. On top of this, workers in Sweden receive a minimum of 25 days or five weeks of paid vacation leave annually. Hence, it is no surprise that Swedes boast less stress, improved mental wellbeing, healthier lifestyles, and more time to spend in the great outdoors.

Get Healthy Together

Speaking of the great outdoors, Swedes love the active lifestyle. With 173,860 square miles of country to enjoy between ten million people, there is plenty of nature for everyone. And their right to roam and camp in any part of the countryside is even protected by law. This obsession with fresh air is captured in friluftsliv, the Scandinavian philosophy of living in the open for the ultimate spiritual and physical wellbeing. Swedish cities are designed to facilitate healthy movement, allowing commuters to walk or ride their bicycles to work. Sweden is one of the countries with the highest bicycles per capita and, for those who do not bike, walking for half an hour or more to visit a friend is a perfectly acceptable pursuit.

Exercise is so engrained in the Swedish lifestyle that almost every company has its own social sports clubs with lunchtime exercise activities. Some companies even have in-house saunas and healthy meal providers. Synonymous with socializing and friendship, exercise is a cherished group activity in Sweden. Unlike the aggressively competitive atmosphere that you might find in the US, gym communities in Sweden are friendly and supportive. So much so that many people undertake PT utbildning or personal trainer training in order to help others achieve better health and body goals.

Aside from fresh air and exercise, diet is another component that contributes to the rosy glow of the Swedes. Locally sourced seasonal produce make up a majority of their meals, which feature heavily in antioxidant-rich berries, superfood rapeseed oil, nutritious brassica vegetables, and quality protein. Bread is always a feature, but it is never the refined and sugar-laden versions that we see in America. Instead, they are usually made of dense and fibrous whole grains like rye. And, of course, we must not forget fika, the quintessential Swedish afternoon tea break where people get together for coffee, cake, and community bonding.

When we get caught up in our culture, it can be hard to think about how to do things differently. While we cannot immediately change structural things such as our tax allocations and the corporate work week, Americans can incorporate certain elements of the Scandinavian lifestyle in ours. We can eat cleaner, exercise together, and try to prioritize spending time with family. In time, hopefully we can become healthier and happier too!