Top 5 Money-Hungry Monsters Startups Should Beware Of

Photo: Beth Day via Flickr

It’s that time of year again. The time when folks put on scary masks and wander out to the local watering holes to scare up a good time. I’m all in favour of a set of vampire fangs and a tube of prop masters blood. But for folks in startupland, there are some terrifying monsters who lurk just outside your door, or attack via e-mail and phone.Be careful — they’ll suck your startup’s lifeblood (cash) and leave you drained of your most precious commodity (time).

Be afraid, be very afraid.  

Here are the top 5 monsters this Halloween: 

1. The Relentless Recruiter

At first, this monster seems harmless — maybe even friendly. As a startup you’ve got dreams of finding that rare creature, top talent that’s ready to turn in their big paycheck for the startup life of ramen and options. So when the Relentless Recruiter arrives on the scene with a drink in one hand, and a resume in anothe, you’re lured by the sirens song of high quality help. But DON’T give them your cell phone number, or you’re doomed. The RR is tireless, they don’t sleep, and they will use all the tools of the dark arts to keep you on the hook. Facebook, LinkedIn, e-mail, Phone — and most hauntingly — the industry cocktail party.  Once you’ve got your guard down, they’ll go in for the kill.

2.  The Vampire VC

Let’s face it — VC’s are lifeblood of the startup world.  Along with Angels, they’re the folks who pay for severs, get the lease signed, and put enough gas in the tank to get your startup up and running. That’s all good!  But beware the associate — the young men and women chained to a cubicle with a phone who are just “checking in.” They smell a new press release, or a big new win, and they’re ready to pounce. Sometimes they’re hungry for competitive data, sent by their masters to find out what’s happening in your “space.”  Sometimes they come with promises of cash. And sometimes, they just need to hit their quota to feed the hungry VC’s appetite for “dealflow.” Don’t let them suck your blood. Your data is yours. Your time is yours.  And there’s almost always either a competitive company lurking in their portfolio or a mismatch of your stage and their need to feed.  

3.  The Over-Eager Intern

Yes, we love interns. They are passionate, engaged, technologically adept, and economically desirable. But – beware – there is always one intern who’s got scary zombie tendencies. The tell-tale signs are their hunger for your attention,their need to be both first and bestand the endless…clawing…demanding question… Why? As in  “why don’t we use Ruby?” or “why don’t we give every member a free T-shirt?”  or “why can’t we all take turns choosing the music in the office?” Eager is good. Over-eager can be deadly.

4.  Monetization Monsters

Startups are fragile things. They need love, attention, and lots of room to grow and spread their wings. But in every startup’s life comes the moment when the big Green Monster arrives. He comes as a friend, offering to stem the tide of expenses and burn rate with the magical money raining down from the sky. And for sure, there is a time for that.But if you let the Monetization Monster turn momentum in to cash machine — you’re going to find that before long, you’re not running a start up anymore. Beware. 

5.  The Frenemies

And now the monster that we all fear most. The Dracula in sheep’s clothing. Startups are fast moving, and the social Web is changing every day. So at the end of a long week, when beer and loud music call your name, there’s always a tempation to sit down and decompress at the local startup hangout. This is good. But — fear the loose lips and tender emotions of the start up grind. While you may think that monsters look like the characters in Night of the Living Dead, it may be that they’re in the shared workspace right next to you, knowing their idea is running out of gas, and looking for another entity they can inhabit and then take over. These are the Frenimies. And they can be your worst nightmare.

The world can be a spooky place for fledgling entrepreneurs with a good idea in a sexy space. But don’t let the tech monsters keep you from venturing out. Travel in groups. Carry garlic. And remember, they can’t harm you if you don’t friend them back.

Happy Halloween.

Steve Rosenbaum is founder and CEO of, a NYC-based Web video startup. He has been building and growing consumer-content businesses since 1992. He was the creator and Executive Producer of MTV UNfiltered, a series that was the first commercial application of user-generated video in commercial TV. Follow Steve on Twitter @Magnify.  His book  Curation Nation comes out on McGrawHill early next year.

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