What’s the most valuable advice you’ve ever been given? Here’s what 40 founders said

4 min read
04 Jan 2019

ver the years, we’ve spoken to thousands of founders across the globe, and we've included more than a few of their startup stories in our books. One question we always like to ask is: what is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given?

The range of responses is huge, including suggestions for keeping your mental health in check, when to ignore advice and even some cooking tips. Whether the founders are based in Tel Aviv, Reykjavik or Miami, their advice is almost always universal and will give you some food for thought.

“Test faster. I see so many developers who spend a long time developing their product only to find there's no demand.” - Hauke Windmueller, cofounder of Familionet

“It’s all about people.” - Paul Bethke, cofounder of Lemonaid

“Be unbelievably passionate about whatever it is you’re trying to do.” - Brian Frumberg, CEO and founder of VentureOut New York

“If you stir shit, it smells worse.” - Harry Kargman, CEO and founder of Kargo

“Make sure you find a career that you love, because you’ll probably spend more time with your career than with your spouse.” - Liz Wessel, CEO and cofounder of WayUp

“Keep an eye on the bottom line.” - Clayton Banks, cofounder of Silicon Harlem

“The right thing is always the right thing.” - Mina Salib, founder of Usspire and program manager of Future Labs at NYU Tandon

“Effort doesn’t matter, results do.” - Ragy Thomas, founder and CEO of Sprinklr

“Always think about how something can be bigger and more ambitious.” - Shan-Lyn Ma, founder and CEO of Zola

Clayton Banks, cofounder of Silicon Harlem. Photo: Ryan Song / Startup Guide

“Read a lot.” - David Allemann, cofounder of On

“I read this and it stuck with me: ‘If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.’” - Christina Riesen, founder and CEO of We Are Play Lab

“Take other people’s advice lightly.” - Micha Kaufman, founder and CEO of Fiver

“Not to do things by the book. It wasn’t specific advice; it was just learning from other entrepreneurs - they don’t have strict methodology.” - Iris Shoor, CEO and founder of Oribi

“Just begin.” - Oren Simanian, founder of StarTAU

“Control your ego.” - Rona Segev, partner at TLV Partners

Shan-Lyn Ma, New York-based founder and CEO of Zola. Photo: Ryan Song / Startup Guide

“Don’t work with assholes.” - Aki Soudunsaari, cofounder and CEO of Naava

“Your career isn’t a ladder to be climbed; it’s the sum of everything you’ve done until now.” - Anita Schjøll Brede, cofounder and CEO of Iris.ai

“Follow my truth, and not care what others think about me.” - Carla Cammilla Hjort, cofounder and Vision Director of SPACE10

“I quote Simon Sinek: ‘Start with why.’” - Magnus Liungman, founder and CEO of Doctrin

“Our chairman of the board said to me, ‘Promise me that you won’t stop doing things ethically and transparently.’” - Natalia Rincón, founder and CEO of CHAOS architects

“Don’t take things too seriously, and don’t give up.” - Benjamin Rohé, cofounder of GERMANTECH DIGITAL

“Don’t be afraid of opening up. A lot of founders are afraid of sharing their ideas.” - Kerstin Bock and Carolin Lessoued, cofounders and CEOs of Openers

“Be obsessed by your customers’ needs.” - Maximilian Tayenthal, cofounder and CFO of N26

“Joseph Campbell said to follow your bliss. I love that.” - Paula Schwarz, founder of the World Datanomic Forum

“Relax.” - Waldemar Zeiler cofounder and chief executive unicorn at einhorn

“Green asparagus sprinkled with olive oil and put on the grill is awesome.” - Philip Siefer, cofounder and chief executive unicorn at einhorn

“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but be quick to fix them.” - Angela Perez, CEO and founder of Imegen

“If life were a bottle, you’ve got to put in the big rocks - the important things - first. Then fill it with everything else - the sand. It doesn’t work the other way around.” - Iker Marcaide, founder of Barrio La Pinada

“Multiply your projected costs by two and divide your estimated revenue by two. If these numbers make sense, continue working on your idea.” - Juan Luis Hortelano, cofounder and COO of Blinkfire Analytics

Oren Simanian, founder of StarTAU. Photo: Startup Guide

“Follow your most epic dreams.” - Felecia Hatcher, founder of BlackTech Week

“Your biggest asset is your personal reputation, your personal brand.” - Guido Kovalskys, cofounder and CEO of Nearpod

“Don’t follow the crowd.” - Ryan Cohen, founder and former CEO of Chewy

“To make myself approachable and available. One of my managers at Google told me that.” - Jói Sigurdsson, CEO and founder of CrankWheel

“Learning to say no is an essential skill I’ve learned.” - Georg Ludviksson, CEO and cofounder of Meniga

“Be nice to people on your way up, because you might meet them on your way down.” - Sandra Mjoll Jonsdottir-Buch, cofounder of Platome

“When you’re going to buy companies, buy them with the revenue they generate themselves. One of our board members taught me that.” - Luis Paris, cofounder and CEO of Parclick

“Find people who are smarter than you in their own fields.” - Amir Marandi, CEO of Zaver

“Get comfortable being uncomfortable and embrace a growth mindset.” - Elsa Bernadotte, COO and cofounder of Karma

“To slow down and look after my health.” - Imad Elabdala, founder and CEO of Kidnovation

Main photo of people at Katapult Accelerator in Oslo by Startup Guide

*This article was originally published on January 4th, 2019 and updated on January 15th, 2019 and February 2, 2021.