What is a Zombie Startup and What are the Signs

Javi Fondevila

While we are constantly reading about startup success, we don’t often read about those that fail. Although they outnumber successful startups by a huge number, unsuccessful startups simply don’t make for engaging reading. Startups that become a ‘zombie startup’ and fail happen because lots of founders don’t know how to grow their business and get caught up in the lulls and low points.

A zombie startup is simply one that looks promising yet failed to gain traction and grow into a successful enterprise.

Signs of a Zombie Startup

Unsurprisingly, entrepreneurs can have a hard time figuring out if they are running a zombie startup. Here are some signs that you may be running a zombie startup. If you can identify with these, it may be time to shake things up a bit.

1. You find it hard to get up and go

As somebody who is running their own business, it is important to stay disciplined and motivated, even if the face of adversity. If you are finding it harder to get out of bed in the morning and go to the office, or you find the thought of facing another day of work burden, it could be a sign that you are running a zombie startup.

After all, if you are not experiencing the growth and prosperity you initially expected, it is going to be a drain on your motivation. When you begin to lose the motivation and passion you once had, it becomes a lot harder for you to run your startup and you could end up on a slippery slope to obscurity if you don’t do something about it.

2. You’re not using the right tools and applications

Tools, applications, and processes designed for startups are crucial to long-term success. This is particularly true if you are a one-man-band or only have a small team.

The right tools can automate certain tasks and processes, leaving you and your team with far more time to focus on what’s important and is going to help grow your company in the long-term. Spending 10 hours a week on accounting as the owner of a company isn’t great—those 10 hours could be spent elsewhere working on what matters to your business more than anything.

Although tools can’t save you, they can help prevent you from turning into a zombie startup.

3. You respond like a zombie

If you’re running a zombie startup, chances are that you react in ways to avoid facing reality when you are confronted. If you are going on the attack, simply denying your problems, or are trying to run away from them, this is a classic sign that your startup is a zombie and is on the road to failure.

When you start biting the heads off your employees (or even clients!) when confronted about your shortcomings or simply try to run away from them, it won’t be too long until your startup is collapsing around you.

Avoiding Becoming a ‘Zombie’

The best way to avoid becoming a zombie (or stop being one if you are) is to have a reality check and be honest with yourself. After all you can’t trust a zombie, right? Honesty and an honest life are built on a real foundation. You can’t get that by being fake and deceiving yourself.

That’s how you can avoid being a zombie, but what about your zombie startup?

Well, the saying goes that “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig” and this is something that you can apply to startups.

If you don’t have an idea that is viable, perhaps it’s time to face the music and change direction? If you have given your startup everything you have and it refuses to grow or be viable in the long-term, you may just have a product or service that doesn’t quite meet the mark.

There’s nothing wrong with this. Everybody in the world of business faces failure at one point or another. The difference between people who are eventually successful and the people who remain failures is that successful people can identify when something isn’t working, accept it, and change direction.

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