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Every Startup Is A Mess

Alan Tsen
Alan Tsen
1 min read
Every Startup Is A Mess
Photo by Oleksii Hlembotskyi / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Every startup, without exception, is a mess.

This isn't an indictment of founders or their creations; rather, it's a universal truth I've come to recognise after more than a decade immersed in the startup land. Recognising this chaos is crucial—not to criticise, but to offer reassurance. It's messy everywhere.

With that established, let’s move to what truly matters—not the mess itself, but its nature. What kind of mess are you dealing with in your startup?

Is it a case of "spilt milk and dropped dishes?" This type of disorder is generally straightforward to deal with. It’s the inevitable consequence of moving fast, making snap decisions, and yes, breaking things in the name of progress. Think tech debt but at a company scale. Although it's painful to acknowledge, this mess is often a sign of progress.

On the other hand, some startups resemble a hoarder’s house. Here, problems layer upon problems. Decisions are postponed, issues are overlooked, and cultural clutter accumulates. This type of mess is more pernicious because it’s not just about cleaning up; it’s about fundamental changes in how decisions are made and problems are addressed.

Both scenarios, however different, are (/can be) manageable. Over time, you can learn to spill less milk and break fewer dishes. Even a metaphorical hoarder’s house can be cleared out, provided you're willing to take out the trash – bag by bag.

Understanding the specific mess you're confronting is what matters. It’s not enough to know that your company is in disarray; you need to understand the structure of your chaos. This clarity isn’t just about cleanup it's about understanding the underlying patterns and practices that led you there in the first place and providing a path out of the mess.

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🌞 Day: Looking for my next thing 🌚 Night: investor in fintech startups + former chair of Fintech Australia, writer of Fintech Radar.