How founders should deal with negative feedback

Negative feedback is fairly constant in the entrepreneur's life. Everyone has an opinion on how you should be running your business, your product, your design, or even your choice of office space. Some days, nothing seems to go right because everyone has an opinion of what's wrong.

When I work with accelerator startups during their mentor meetings, the volume of negative feedback outweigh the volume of positive feedback. That volume debilitates founders and causes uncertainty of action.

Good founders deal with this negative feedback and succeed through the rest of the program. Techstars companies Mainframe and SendBird were two examples of these; they both had 2-time founders that knew how to process negative feedback.

Bad founders let the negative feedback negatively impact their business, flounder towards the end of the program, and severely impact their ability to achieve product/market fit and fundraise. Klooff was an example of this from a 1st time founder.

From my observations, good founders deal with negative feedback using the below framework. Good founders first assess whether negative feedback is known or unknown, and then assess whether the business risk is low or high.


Known negative feedback, low risk: ignore feedback, not a priority

If there is a huge volume of known negative feedback, perhaps it's a larger risk than anticipated.

Known negative feedback, high risk: you should be dealing with this or have a plan to deal with this already

Unknown negative feedback, low risk: analyze and reflect, but the risk is low so no immediate action needed

Unknown negative feedback, high risk: action immediately