Confessions of a Start-Up Junky

Geoff Livingston in Palermo

Confession: Giddy joy pervades my fingertips these days. The reason? The challenge of starting anew.

See, I’m a start-up junky. And next week my two partners and I are launching our newco. I can’t wait!

I’ve been engaged in start-ups since 1996, when I joined CommunicationsNow as an editor to successfully launch several publications serving the wireless industry. Then I did a stint as media relations manager for a dot-bomb in Southern California called IPNet Solutions.

This past decade saw the successful launch of Widmeyer‘s Design & Advertising practice. After that I helped get Sage Communications‘ PR practice off the ground. And most recently, I started, built and sold Livingston Communications, a social media boutique.

The Next Venture

So with my sixth venture (second as owner), what have I learned? What five suggestions will I bring to the table that will benefit my partners and clients?

1) Do what you love! Most people hate their jobs, but if you own your own company, then that’s your fault. In fact, it’s all your fault. There’s no one to blame, so make it worth loving!

2) Love your critics/enemies, too. Plenty of naysayers out there will tell you that it will be hard, that most newcos fail, etc. This time, it’s “Well, the economy is not that great,” or “Your focus won’t yield the most cash.” These people should be seen as a) sources of information about possible weaknesses that you can address, and b) points of inspiration.

Listen to criticism even if it burns. They may be right about your offering, and don’t you want to address that?

Conversely, I always love winning when I’ve been told it’s unlikely or impossible. When I receive resistance from naysayers, it only fuels me. To me, success comes from personal commitment to achieving a goal as opposed to what other people tell me I should be or can achieve. Many times the reasons find basis in their own fears.

3) Play to your weaknesses. If you’re not good at something, own it. Then outsource it or hire people to fill that role. In this new entity, my partners’ strengths play to my weaknesses and vice versa. I am very grateful for that. Now I can focus on areas that I truly excel in.

4) Embrace failure. Most of the companies I’ve been involved with sustained themselves or were sold, so ultimate failure is not my experience. Failing is. Failure in ventures always happens, but serves as the experience necessary for improvement and excellence. The question isn’t whether you will fail or have disappointments. It’s how fast can you get up, and evolve.

5) Don’t get set on facts. Markets change, people change, situations change, everything changes. The only thing in life and business that you can be certain of is change. Be ready to handle the comings and goings of relationships and situations. Impermanence is the rule of thumb.

That’s my big five, the rest stay in my head for now. But if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, please read Pam Slim’s Escape from Cubicle Nation. It’s the best book I’ve read on the topic.


  • Love it, Geoff. I’m eagerly awaiting the big announcement. I particularly like what you say about embracing failure. It’s only failure if you don’t pick yourself up and move along. We’re far too focused on a narrow definition of success that too often doesn’t leave room for growth. Good on you!

  • Can’t wait to see what you’ve got up your sleeve this time!

  • Pingback:swoodruff (Steve Woodruff)

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    RT @GeoffLiving: New Blog Post: Confessions of a Start-Up Junky [link to post]

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    New Blog Post: Confessions of a Start-Up Junky [link to post] (via @GeoffLiving)

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  • Pingback:Roll your own Future « StickyFigure

    […] 7, 2010 by Steve Woodruff I enjoyed reading Geoff Livingston’s blog post today, Confessions of a Start-up Junky. One of the things I admire about Geoff, which shines through in this post, is that he is aware of […]

  • Geoff, a friend and I were talking about what makes a person happy with their job just yesterday so this is a very timely post. To often we paint ourselves into a corner of in a job we dislike due to where we are in our lives. By doing this it makes it easy to justify in staying somewhere where you might not like but the pay is good, or they have great benefits.

    Kudos, to you for making another jump into a great adventure and best of luck!

  • Interested to see what you do. :) I know I learned a lot from working w/ you at LC, and excited to see what’s next. Nice tips — I think you also have to look at the big picture — what are YOUR goals w/ the company you’re starting, how can you work with others to achieve them, and what can you do to make everyone successful. When you have a start-up, it becomes more than just about you, which is the exciting part. And you know, I would say it’s always helpful to outsource accounting. :P Ha.

    Good luck!

  • Pingback:24k (Chris Rauschnot)

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    RT @GeoffLiving: Now engaging in my 6th start-up, I’ve learned a lot. Here are the Confessions of this Start-Up Junky – [link to post]

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  • Geoff, please excuse the fact that I left this comment on the wrong blog post (avatar post). Sorry about that. I thought I would put my comment on the right post:)

    Geoff, I enjoyed this blog post and agree with your recommendation of Pam Slim’s book, Escape From Cubicle Nation to those who are making the transition. Her book is special to me as Pam is a friend and she shared my escaping the cubicle story in starting my company, The Strategic Incubator. Or should I say, she shared all the mistakes I made that hopefully others can avoid:)

  • ALL solid advice for sure. As someone who started and sold his own company for the first time all of what you said is dead on with the first one being the most important.

    Running your own business means more hours then you’ve ever worked at any other job and you MUST love what you are doing or it will dog you down and won’t be worth it.

    Can’t wait to see what is next for you.

  • It has been so fun to watch your growth Geoff, and observe your endless enthusiasm and energy.

    I wish much luck, fun and success with this new startup.

    I really appreciate the plug for the book – thanks for the shout out!

    Eagerly awaiting more news,


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    RT@ GeoffLiving Now engaging in my sixth start-up. Here are the Confessions of this Start-Up Junky – [link to post] /tks 4 the wisdom

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  • Pingback:nancyjvilla (nancy snow villa)

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    RT @GeoffLiving Now engaging in my sixth start-up. Here are the Confessions of this Start-Up Junky – [link to post] /tks 4 the wisdom

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  • Hey Geoff–Pam’s Twitter sent me here. Tell us more about the mysterious new venture!

    I’m just starting to prepare a resource for software-dependent startups. The basic concept is to make the software part of the business go smoothly and not suck, so the entrepreneur can focus on products, marketing, and other real deliverables.

    If you’d be willing to spare a few minutes, I would love to ask you some things. If you’re (hypothetically?) starting up something that is not an I.T. company but still relying heavily on a software development project, what kinds of things tend to make that part of the startup suck? What kind of support would you like to have to prevent it from sucking, or to recover when it does?

    I have some ideas about this, but you’re the expert. I’d love feedback on this from you or your fans, so I can build something that startup guys like you will actually use and benefit from. Thanks!

  • Pingback:andysternberg (Andy Sternberg)

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    #1: Do What You Love ++ RT @GeoffLiving: New Blog Post: Confessions of a Start-Up Junky [link to post]

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  • Pingback:DaveMurr (David Murray)

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    Some great start-up advice from @GeoffLiving [link to post]

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  • Start up junkies must be full of life!

  • Pingback:balanon (Henry Balanon)

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    RT @DaveMurr: Some great start-up advice from @GeoffLiving [link to post]

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  • Thanks everyone for your helpful wishes and suggestions. Without you it would be more difficult to find the courage to go forth. You are my well. I hope to make you proud.

  • Pingback:cheeky_geeky (Dr. Mark Drapeau)

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    Escaping from cubicle nation? Launching a startup in 2010? @GeoffLiving has some great advice for you – [link to post]

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  • Pingback:rsholman (rsholman)

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    after a 15 year string of start ups I love this list. Confessions of this Start-Up Junky – [link to post]. via @GeoffLiving

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