There is so much said about startups that it's hard to differentiate between good and bad advice. Hence, we've created this page, where we'll add the best startup quotes we come across (and leave out the worst). If you come across a phrase, which captures something important about the startup founder's journey, and you believe it's missing, we'd love to hear from you. Just drop a line to a member of our team on LinkedIn.
Amelia Earheart startup quote
Not the first person most people think of when they consider startups, but Amelia was a risk-taker and always pushing barriers. Her words make a rather fitting startup quote:
"The most effective way to do it is to do it."
Ben Horowitz quote on startup effort
Love this from the founder of LoudCloud. His book, "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" is one of the best reads any founder can find.
Nobody cares. When things go wrong in your company, nobody cares. The press doesn’t care, your investors don’t care, your board doesn’t care, your employees don’t care, even your mama doesn’t care.
And they are right not to care. A great reason for failing won’t preserve one dollar for your investors, won’t save one employee’s job, or get you one new customer. It especially won’t make you feel one bit better when you shut down your company and declare bankruptcy.
All the mental energy that you use to elaborate misery would be far better used trying to find the one, seemingly impossible way out of your current mess. It's best to spend zero time on what you could have done and all of your time on what you might do.
Because in the end, nobody cares, just run your company.
Jimmy Carr on failure
Love this from Jimmy Carr, which is a blend of what he wrote in his book and what he said on a podcast with Steven Bartlett:
The great thing about being a comic is… we're brilliant with failure.
We made friends with failure a long time ago.
We've died many times on stage.
I've written more jokes... that don’t work... than you.
So many more.
You may not have written any jokes that don’t work.
I've written thousands of them.
But that feedback loop of failure is such a great life lesson to learn.
All failure is just feedback.
You look at something and think, "OK, that doesn't work, I'll change it."
You don't just fail the same way a thousand times...
You fail differently each time until you run out of ways to fail.
And at that point it's called success.
Zig Ziglar startup quotes
Hilary Hinton "Zig" Ziglar was a true wordsmith and business brain. He was a salesman, motivational speaker, and author, with dozens of memorable quotes to his name. Here are some our favourite Zig Ziglar quotes:
Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.
You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.
If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time.
Remember that failure is an event, not a person.
Be careful not to compromise what you want most for what you want now.
If people like you, they'll listen to you, but if they trust you, they'll do business with you.
Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street.
Honesty and integrity are by far the most important assets of an entrepreneur.
Money won't make you happy... but everybody wants to find out for themselves.
...Not that we think startups are about money, but it's a great quote, no?!
Outstanding people have one thing in common: An absolute sense of mission.
If you learn from defeat, you haven't really lost.
The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.
Thomas Edison startup quote
Is it failure, or is it experience?
The actual wording of this phrase is a topic of debate, but the sentiment is the same:
I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
Naval Ravikant startup quote
Naval is a bit of a hero of ours, having founded and led the groundbreaking early-stage investment platform, AngelList. Thanks to professional tidier(!), Nicky Williamson for suggesting this one.
If I had always done what I was 'qualified' to do, I'd be pushing a broom somewhere.
Henry Ford startup quotes
Henry Ford is one of the world's most celebrated entrepreneurs, but he also had a wonderful way with words and metaphors:
When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.
If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.
Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.
Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.
You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.
If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as from your own.
A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.
I am looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can't be done.
Wealth, like happiness, is never attained when sought after directly. It comes as a by-product of providing a useful service.
The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.
A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.
It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.
Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas.
Finally, some suggest Henry Ford never said the following, but as a quote it applies perfectly to startups. Seeing as it is so commonly attributed to Ford, I'm ignoring the potential provenance issues and including it:
If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.
Winston Churchill startup quote
Never one to miss an opportunity for a memorable quotation, many of Winston's words about life can easily be applied to startups. In particular this one:
Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.
Sir Terry Pratchett
Thanks to Nick Deverell in Sydney for pointing out this classic from The Wee Free Men:
If you trust in yourself...and believe in your dreams...and follow your star...you'll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy.
This one comes courtesy of Joey Curtis of Lady Lex Productions. Executive coach, Marshall Goldsmith, made a career out of identifying the key beliefs of successful leaders and the behaviours that hold them back:
What got you here, won’t get you there.
Thanks to Wilbert, founder of Founder at N Gage, LLC, for suggesting this one from Brené Brown:
One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else's survival guide.
This wasn't a startup quote, but it does ring true of the startup founder's need to adjust and pivot. Many of the best-known startups found success doing something quite different from what they initially set out to do - Slack being an obvious example - showing the importance of being able to flex and roll with the punches. It's one reason why so many investors back the team rather than the idea. (Credit to Iain Dooley for this one.)
Everyone Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth.
Another sportsman whose words can be applied equally well to the startup and business world was the legendary ice hockey champion, Wayne Gretsky, who said:
I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.
The late founder of Zappos was, by all accounts, a visionary leader, founder, and manager. Hsieh was a contrarian thinker, putting service, team, purpose, and customer experience at the heart of what he did. As he said of Zappos:
We're a service company that happens to sell shoes.
He also believed in "holocracy" and the ability and adaptability of employees to achieve great things when trusted with enough responsibility, and said:
Failure is not a lack of resources, it's a lack of resourcefulness.
This man needs no introduction, and some of his insights are priceless:
I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the nonsuccessful ones is pure perseverance.
On not settling:
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.
OK, she probably wasn't talking abhout startups, but it's one of the best definitions of success we've ever come across:
"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it."
Professional golfer, Tony Finau, plays on the PGA Tour. He was also featured on the surprisingly enjoyable golf documentary, "Full Swing", and came across as an all-round good guy and family man. What he said about golf applies equally well to startups:
"A winner is just a loser who never gave up."