Confessions of a start-up consultant

If you’re a fraud, you might as well go all the way!

About a year ago

I was talking to one of my business mentors; he asked:

  • “How do I get on the first page of Google search?”
  • “Do SEO”
  • “How do you do SEO?”
  • “Write relevant content, be active on social media, optimize your webpages, join referral - and link building programmes, do email marketing, …”
  • “I don’t have the time or energy for this. What kind of content? Maybe I know someone…”
  • “Content that is relevant for your site…”
  • “What would be relevant?”

I give some suggestions, but tell him keyword analysis is really a necessity… He thinks a little, and then replies:

  • “Who can you suggest?”
  • “I know a few people but haven’t really worked with anyone yet….”

As I start suggesting some people, I see him gazing away. As we go a long way back, I realize something’s up, so I ask him:

  • “What’s the matter? Am I being to technical?”
  • “No, you’re not, but I’ve found a better solution”
  • “???”
  • “I’ll just google for SEO belgium, take a look at the results, and work my way from there…”


This was so blatantly obvious that I was ashamed that I didn’t think about it: if you want to find somebody who’s good at something, look for a proven track record!

I help a lot of people who ask me for start-up advice. Maybe it’s because I’ve failed and blogged about these failures that people come to me.

It was only after we had that talk that I realized that I was a fraud.

“Being a fraud”

I have read a lot about start-ups and failed a few times in launching one. As I blogged about my failures people would ask for my advice, because I was apparently able to connect the dots.

I gave most of my advice pro deo, but on occasion I also billed some of my larger clients who wanted to run a side project like a start-up.

They were grateful for my help, but I now realize that I wasn’t good enough: I was able to connect the dots, but I lacked the deeper insight.

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." - Miles Kington

I was in fact lacking wisdom.

Even though I received no complaints, I hereby apologize for any pretentious - potentially wrong - advice that I might have given.

Now what?

About a month after I had this talk, I got an idea, sold it, and spent almost all of last year chasing it. It will take another few months before I’ll be able to tell if it has in fact grown into a viable business.

In case you’d still want some humble tips despite my confession as a fraud, feel free to check these slides:

And finally

A rhetorical question: if a person or company is offering start-up consultancy, why would their opinion be any better than yours?

If a company is truly an expert in converting ideas into viable businesses, wouldn’t they spend their time launching one product after another, as opposed to consulting for you at an hourly/fixed rate?

Maybe negotiate for a “no cure, no pay approach”; that will enforce them to put their money where their mouth is.

Signing off,


Former Start-up Consultant Imposter


Yves mentioned some things on twitter, and I think he might have a good point:

Guess I wasn’t being an imposter after all…