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Keep Your Startup Out Of The Sand

The Engineer’s point of view on Pitfalls and Resources for Startups and Product Based Ventures

Setting the Stage

This web feature is a series of articles intended to be viewed in order — top to bottom in the side menu.  If you missed the Introduction, you may want to go back to start there.  It’s a little like pre-setting the stage.

Business Types:

There are three general business types:

  • Service – Where the company provides an action or a service.
  • Resell or Distribution – Where a company sells the products of other companies.
  • Product – Where a company produces and sells its own products.

This is, of course, over generalized, and there are many companies that operate in more than one of the above categories.  In this article, we’ll focus on product-based businesses, and the product side of a combined business.

Product Based:

A business (or Startup or Venture) that is the source of a product, where that product is intended as a tool to create revenue.  A product can be physical, digital, or conceptual.  We’ll deal with all of these in one generic swipe, but remember that each business and each product is unique.

If you are a product based business, state your product or products (generally is OK), then follow through the steps on the rest of this page.


Take a minute and list all of your entrepreneurial resources.  Really, write them down.

Your list should include all the normal things like:  Money, Time, Friends, Service Sources, Mentors, the Internet, this Article, etc..  But think a little deeper — how about Brain Power, Enthusiasm, and people your friends know.  This list should get pretty long.

Resources are all the things that are available to help move your business forward.

What is a “Sand Trap”?

For our context, a Sand Trap is anything that consumes resources disproportionately — especially Time, Money, Brain Power & Enthusiasm.

Finding the Sand Pits

Buttercup:  We’ll never succeed.  We may as well die here.
Westley:  No, no.  We have already succeeded.  I mean, what are the three terrors of the Fire Swamp?  One, the flame spurt – no problem.  There’s a popping sound preceding each; we can avoid that.  Two, the lightning sand, which you were clever enough to discover what that looks like, so in the future we can avoid that too.

— From the movie, The Princess Bride.

The two responses are so different.  As you enter your own fire-swamp of new product ventures, realize that a disproportionate number that enter don’t survive.  However, all you need to do is figure out the resources available and learn where the traps are.  Let this article (and the ones that follow) point out a few of the “popping sounds” to help you avoid some of the hazards.

Entrepreneurial Quicksand:

Have you ever spent hours fiddling with a Powerpoint slide for a presentation?  Or on getting a web page to look just perfect?  Have you ever looked up from your email and noticed an hour had passed?  Do you ever wake up at night worried about details in your company?  These are all evidence of “Sand Traps”.

Again, if a “Sand Trap” is anything that consumes resources disproportionately, and if your time is one of your resources, then get out of the sand trap of what I call the fiddle factor. Fiddling to perfection is not usually necessary — even though if often feels like it.

These are some of the smaller, perhaps simple “Sand Traps”, but they are still important.  This article addresses some much bigger ones that can’t usually be solved in an hour.  The first step is to identify them.

Dealing With Things That Bog You Down Is Key To Staying Out Of The Entanglement.

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