Do Not Let History’s Mistakes Repeat Themselves

Charlie O’Donnell of First Round’s NYC team recently wrote a very important post entitled, Ignore startup history at your peril. It was so good and relevant to today that I’m adding it to my list in my post, If We Meet, I Will Ask You….
To summarize his post, he basically loves to ask startup founders why haven’t the previous entrepreneurs in his space succeeded and how did they fail. Given today’s proliferation of clones of every idea out there, or even near clones, it is hard not to be able to find competitors in the near past who have tried your idea and failed. Also, given founders posting a lot about their mistakes, and Techcrunch, et. al. documenting the closure of all these startups, it would seem relatively straightforward to dig up reasons why a lot of similar startups failed. Or, our entrepreneur networks are pretty darn small now; it would not be hard to go and simply ask around and thus find out about any startup out there.
Why would you want to do this? Well, it’s to not repeat the mistakes of the past. And if you don’t go figure out why someone else failed at what you’re working on now, the likelihood of you flailing through mistakes made by someone else is pretty high. I totally agree with Charlie wanting entrepreneurs to not only be experts in their respective spaces, but also students of the history of past startups who have tried and failed, and, by the way, also succeeded.
Many thanks to Charlie for bringing this up and I’m adding it to my list to ask entrepreneurs during pitches.