3 Epic, Colossaly Stupid Startup Mistakes that I Made

imagesDumbass Mistake #1

Hiring a big name Wall Street law firm to handle your formation docs. 

We paid a $5,000 retainer fee to a well-known firm to handle a simple non-disclosure agreement. Unbelievably stupid right. Wait there’s more. After blowing through our retainer on a 6 minute call with 3 senior partners, we stupidly chose to go with an equally big name Silicon Valley law firm. Guess what? Screwed again.

Smart and Simple Solution: Rocket Lawyer provides individuals and small to medium sized businesses with online legal services—including incorporation, estate plans, legal health diagnostics, NDAs and legal document review. The site also provides a network of attorneys that consumers and small businesses can consult with on legal issues through its On Call service. We use Rocket Lawyer all the time. They are fast, affordable and provide excellent customer service.

Dumbass Mistake #2

Hiring a skilled graphic designer and convincing yourself that he/she can code. 

I love unicorns and fairies just like the next girl. I wanted to believe. On our 4th graphic designer and 6th attempt at redesigning our simple mailchimp newsletter, I turned to my ever-patient partner and begrudgingly said “Coders are coders and designers are designers. Looks like we are going to need to hire 2 different people for this job if we are going to get this done.” ‘Nuff Said.  Embrace the pain early if you ever want to see a finished product.

Smart and simple solution: Find a designer that you love and then hire a skilled coder who can execute the designs. Do not let your graphic designer pick your coder. You need to get in the middle of that shit. Seriously. Here is a list of mailchimp experts http://experts.mailchimp.com/. Go onto www.elance.com. Read reviews. Examine portfolios.

Dumbass Mistake #3

Not setting milestones and due dates for your projects.

I have come to learn that people approach deadlines differently – very differently. Coming from finance, deadlines were not merely a suggestion they were divine law.  I can’t even begin to tell you the number of excuses we have heard with respect to missed deadlines. I had a flat tire. The internet was down – in India. I had a dentist appointment. I have a dentist appointment. I had a fight with my boyfriend.  This is far more work than I originally anticipated. Me, me, me ,me ,me. Well, what about me. I paid you.

Smart and Simple Solution: Set milestones. Do not fall into the ½ upfront and 1/2 at completion sand trap. Nothing will ever get done. Also people have different definitions of “completion”. I have found that small payouts based on work completed by a certain date works best. Invoices must be submitted in order for vendors to be paid. Voila, now it’s about me and my needs.


Meridith Dennes is a co-founder and the CEO of Project Eve. Prior to starting Eve, Meridith spent almost 15 years working in investment banking originating and structuring strategic funding solutions for corporations and banks. She began her career at Spy Magazine and in business development at Marvel Comics. Meridith brings her unique brand of creative talent and multiple years of professional business influences to the Project Eve creative and business strategy. Meridith holds a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business. A native New Yorker, she currently lives on the Upper East Side with her husband and two daughters, Addison and Morgan.  Meridith is spends her free time practicing yoga, snowshoeing, skiing and trying to convince her family to move to a ski resort.








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