The Four Horsemen of the Startup

I've been working in startups for almost a decade now. In reviewing the success and challenges of the startups I've worked for, its often entrepreneurs that were previously successful that move on to their next startup. I believe there are four issues that startups (and entrepreneurs) must avoid if they wish to survive.

The Four Horsemen of the Startup:


  1. Greed – I can squeeze out more money, sooner.
  2. Hubris – I will be the reason for our future success.
  3. Ignorance – I don't need to listen, I know better.
  4. Dominance – I know better, I'll tell you how to do it.

A startup's success isn't built on “I”, nor is it built on ideas and money. A startup's success is built by the incredible talent of those closest to the client, the prospect, or the problem.

It takes special employees to move at the pace that a startup requires. You need a combination of lifters and pushers… employees who hold everything up and employees who push people forward.

I'm blessed to be surrounded with some incredibly talented employees right now at work. Seeing progress in hours and days rather than months and years would be inspiring to any large corporation.


  1. 1

    Great post.

    I’ve seen it first hand — all of the characteristics you describe — options are in the hands of a few and doled out sparingly and the team is treated like hired help … a young leader that can’t give up control believing their own infallibility, not listening to people with years more experience in varied backgrounds, and dictating orders, creating an anvironment of accountability, but no responsibilty while stifling confidence and engendering something close to the “battered wife” syndrome.

    Yup, I’ve seen all of those things. And those companies ultimately failed. Good luck with your start-up, I hope it has a better fate.


  2. 2

    It’s true. These 4 “horsemen” as you say can be deadly. Being in the industry, I don’t get why so many people think it is just so easy.

    Get me to the first page of Google. I know companies are making money in online sales, how can I sell more right now? I just launched my Web site two days ago, why is it not getting much traffic?

    For some reason, everyone thinks these things just happen without any effort. You contact them about updating their Web site and they “just don’t have time” yet all of these things are just supposed to magically happen.

    They want to get from point A to point Z without doing anything in between. It is hard work. You don’t have all of the answers. That is the reality of it. Now put a plan in place to make things happen. If you are wanting to get rich quick, go try one of those infomercials on late night television. Good luck with that. We will still be here working away when that fails too.

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