The No.1 Tip for Fintech startups

Pursue a “BIG VISION” that’s guided by a real obsession with your customers… and NOT your competitors

The No.1 Tip for Fintech startups

Pursue a “BIG VISION” that’s guided by a real obsession with your customers… and NOT your competitors


When I saw this Tweet it spurred me to write this post. Experience has made me rich (a bit like the original Material Girl 😉 I’ve made millions and lost billions. Hence, please forgive my rant.

What has me so riled up?

It’s a simple tweet from Paul Graham, the co-founder of Y-Combinator, but “Oh me oh my” it really does say so much:

Especially as I know that 80% of start ups fail in the first 2 years, with another 80% by year 5.

Here’s the tweet:

In 99% of startups, failing to execute is a much bigger danger than being copied. So it’s a mistake to risk the former in order to avoid the latter.

That’s golden.

…and here’s why:

I’ve been working with start ups & SME’s for the last 25 years, I’ve worked with 100’s of entrepreneurs through my mentoring at Google Campus and via POW (my Agency) and now mentoring & teaching at the awesome scale up Programme at Fintech Circle.


“I see them come, I see them go”. Some listen, take on board advice and have gone on to become market leaders. But then there are others who always “know better”. Those who don’t listen and go their own path…. and ultimately just crash and burn.

This simple 160 character Tweet sums-up the most important advice I could give any entrepreneur about focusing on “the competition”.

Look, startups rarely fail because of the competition.

In reality, they fail because their product doesn’t really meet market needs, they aren’t solving a burning problem, they have poor Product / Market fit.

They fail from poor financial management, they fail because they don’t have the expertise they need in house and cut corners to save money. They fail due to a lack of Psychographic profiling & niche targeting, they fail because they know better and don’t listen to experience…

Here’s the NUGGET:

Over 90% of them fail because the team doesn’t execute.

The data is clear on this.

As I tell my Google & Fintech students:

Ideas are cheap; EXECUTION is hard.

Someone else with the same idea as you, just isn’t what will kill your startup. Not in a million years.

When someone asks me to sign a NDA, I laugh. Like I’m going to steal their magic idea. Holy shit! Your idea isn’t the “magic” bullet to success. It’s the 10,000+ hours, and all the blood, sweat, determination and hard work

… it’s the execution – that’s the “Magic”.

Great ideas are a dime a dozen.

Making them a reality though, is hard work and sheer determination …that’s the MAGIC.

The sad Truth:

I’ve worked with many multi millionaires and market leaders over the last 25 years.

Here’s the bad news for startups:

Every successful person I’ve coached who has now “made it”

Reality, they still work weekends, on holidays, late into the evenings, they still get up at the crack of dawn, they still “juggle” and just don’t have enough hours in the day.

There’s no “magic idea” that’s a magic bullet to success.

It’s all the hard work, strategic thinking & brute force of will and execution… that really guarantees your “Success”.

Unfortunately I know a couple of entrepreneurs who are still in “stealth mode” because they don’t want anyone to “steal” their ideas.

Whenever I call to check in for a catch up, they’ll tell me about whats happening this week in the market place and they’ll drone on about what their “competitors” are doing.

FACT: These guys have literally spent years obsessing about “competitors” instead of getting out there, grafting and “Selling” to actual prospective customers.

These two start up companies (who will go un-named 😊 ) are literally 100% DOOMED to fail.

It’s our friend Jeff, who said it best:

“If you’re competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering.”  —  Jeff Bezos

Look yes, sure, do your competitive analysis. Why not? Create a really pretty slide for your pitch deck about the landscape. That’s all nice stuff.

But then seriously…

Then get back to executing on your start up, and talking to your ideal clients.

Pursue a “BIG VISION” that’s guided by a real obsession with your customers… and NOT your competitors.

The moment you spend all your times and energy focused on communicating with and solving problems for your “Ideal clients” is when it will all change.

Glenn Burgess is CMO at FINTECH Circle and leads the FINTECH CIRCLE Scaleup programme. He also owns POW! The Marketing/PR agency and mentors at Google Campus.

To learn more about Scaling UP your Fintech, click here to >> Scale up Faster!



A foot note:

If you ever DO “demand” an NDA, from any VC who’s worth their salt… before sharing your idea.

Please, please be aware that

A) You just showed a distinct lack of understanding or comprehension of the sheer volume of work & serious 100% “dedication” & “effort” that’s involved in being bringing an “idea”
to life and ultimately to it’s Successful fruition. Which is really seriously worrying. And casting doubts in my mind immediately.

B) …you also just embarrassed yourself by instantly coming across as a seriously “naïve” dumb ass.

Just saying.