What types of mistakes can you make as a founder ?

Son Le Thanh (Son)
2 min readJan 22, 2022

Today is the graduation day of cohort 2 at Insignia Ventures Academy which I was proud to be part of. Timothy Lee, the former partner at Sequoia Capital, was invited to give a guest lecture on the topic of “Why Founders and Operators Make Great or Terrible Investors”.

The magic formula for success

When I asked, “What is your magic formula for knowing if this is the right team doing the right thing at the right time?”. Tim’s answer was “I don’t have the formula yet. When I have, I will let you know”. Paulo — the Wikipedia of startups in South East Asia — said “Making more mistakes is probably the answer”.

These are some of the mistakes I have made when I was a first-time entrepreneur.

Losing focus

Summer 2022, I was starting up Startup Grind Singapore after the epic trip to Silicon Valley, still working a day job at Phillip Capital and working on a side project to build a mobile app connecting like-minded people staying nearby via lunch. I was burned out completely. I was kicked out of the Founder Institute program due to poor performance in the cohort.

Too obsessed with the solution instead of the problem

I and my co-founder hired an intern for about 4 months working on the mobile app and we never published it to the App Store. A Vietnamese friend of mine used a Google Form to match a Singaporean student who wanted to learn the German language from exchange students (the demand) and a German student who wanted to earn pocket money (the supply). It worked and he paid a $10 fee from the demand to the supply side.

“The biggest mistake you can make is seeing some opportunities but doing nothing” was my comment on the chat box in today call with Tim.

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Son Le Thanh (Son)

I am a geek, my background was in software development but I enjoyed building community and creating useful content. I am the father of two boys.