The #1 Piece of Advice from Existing to New Founders


Deb Goldstein


September 15, 2022

At Bonfire we give every new founder the book "The Hard Thing About Hard Things," because while lots of people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are truly honest about how challenging it is to run one. The Bonfire portfolio is made up of extraordinary founders walking similar paths at different stages of growth. We recently asked them to reflect on their journeys and share the one piece of advice they'd give to new founders. Not surprisingly, there were lots of repeated themes, such as surrounding yourself with the right people (classic), and other very sound tips like finding mentors to share problems with who don't have the same emotional ties to your business as you.

Below is a collection of their top advice that we hope you find useful!

"Choose your investors wisely." - Jordan Glazier, CEO, Founder, Wildfire

"Talk to as many prospects and customers as you frequently can." - Dominic Dinardo, CEO, Aforza

"Company building isn’t an individual sport. Don’t be afraid to be transparent with yourself and others and ask for help and resources when you need them." - Matt Danna, co-founder and CEO, Boulevard

"Culture matters more than you think and that also compounds. So bring in people that match your culture and set it earlier than you think you need to." - Robbie Bhathal, Co-founder and CEO, Brightflow AI

"Use your community of investors. They really want to help!" - Anne Fulton, CEO, Co-founder, Fuel 50

"​​Invest in yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually as much as you're investing in the company. Your personal growth needs to exceed the growth rate of the company." - Melanie Fallay, CEO, Co-founder, Spekit

"Done is better than perfect. Get started, keep improving, and don't quit." - Danny Freed, CEO and Founder, Blueprint

"Stay close to the customer; their perception of the problem, your solution to it, their usage of that solution - in short, their voice - should infuse your organization as much as possible. That’s what drives quick iteration loops towards success." - Jason Heidema, CEO, Atrium

"Reason from first principles, not by analogy. Don’t look at how the problem has been solved in the past. Look at the problem and design a solution using the tools that are available now." - Adam Ierymenko, CEO and Founder, Zerotier

"When you're a founder, the startup is your baby and it’s easy to get tangled up in emotions over critical decisions. Develop self-distancing and talk to great mentors who do not have the same emotional stakes as you do in your problems." - M Nash Nasrullah, Co-founder, CEO, Integry

"Spend time doing  20-40 customer interviews to validate your hypothesis around the pain, value proposition, differentiation, pricing, etc." - Gaurav Bhattacharya, Co-founder, Involve AI

"Talk to prospects and customers on a weekly basis (at least!). This is critical to getting off the ground and finding product-market fit, and will ensure you stay humble and don’t lose touch with your customers." - Jason Graub, CEO, Co-founder, Tourial 

"Don’t be afraid of failing. Every disappointment is a great opportunity to learn and evolve." - Itay Sinuani, CEO, Co-founder, Demoleap

"Preserve options. You don't know what the future holds–especially in a startup–so keep business commitments as short as practical. It's worth a significant premium to not be locked into a plan you made years ago. That goes for real estate, software licenses, product inventory, AWS Reserved Instances...everything." - Gregg Johnson, CEO, Invoca

"It’s a marathon, not a race. You need mental rigor and grit to survive the emotional rollercoaster of a startup. It helps to have a leadership team that you can truly trust and rely on when you’re going through the peaks and valleys."  - Armen Adjemian, CEO, Co-founder, Disqo

"Share successes but also challenges with the board early." -  Nina Luu, CEO, Co-founder, Shippabo

"Surround yourself with the right people. Running a company is hard. Starting a company is even harder. A personal support network and community that believes in you and helps you get things done the right way is often your greatest asset. Nobody makes it on their own." - Chase Lee, CEO, Founder, Trustpage

"Build in public. Launch as quickly as you can and iterate based on customer / user feedback to build something they love. If you are the right team to make your idea happen, you don't have to be worried about potential competitors. Building great products is a skill you can practice, so don't wait until the perfect idea or moment strikes - start honing your abilities right now." - Daniel Liebeskind, CEO, Founder, Topia

"There’s going to be a lot you don’t know - don’t be afraid to reach out to strangers and ask for help. Invite someone who’s an expert to lunch. It will shock you how eager those who have been successful are to help if you ask." - Erika Wasser, CEO, Co-Founder, Prospr

"Use the quiet times to be as strategic as you can in planning and thinking ahead." - Dominic Dinardo, CEO, Aforza

"Persistence is your best friend on this journey that at times will feel lonely. Highs and lows will come and go, learn to enjoy the journey. Build a top class team!" - Corey Brundage, CEO, Founder, Honk

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