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Sep 16th, 2013 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

The Generalist Trap

On our “Ideas for Heretic Topics” Google Doc someone recently asked about my opinion on generalists and their role in startups (as opposed to specialists such as people with deep engineering backgrounds).

I always considered myself a generalist. As I somehow managed to get three startups off the ground, I guess it’s not a total disaster if you have generalists start companies. Having said that — there are some very real dangers: I have seen way too many generalists burn way too much money (or worse: do the wrong thing) on anything from product development to marketing; simply because they didn’t know. Being a generalist doesn’t give you permission to not know — quite contrary: It comes with the extra responsibility to know enough about everything to ask the right questions. You don’t need to have the answers (that’s what your specialists are for) but you need to know enough about any subject to do what’s right for your company. And you need extra chops in the building-an-awesome-team department.

With that being said — If you consider yourself a generalist and ask yourself if a startup is right for you: Yes. If you’re willing to learn and build a team.

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