Growth & Marketingstartups

Gatekeepers Role in Startups Failures

No one likes spam. Like billions of other email users, I receive hundreds of spam emails weekly. The offers range from the legitimate, such as web design and graphic design, to the less legitimate or outright scams.

However, when someone reaches out to me in a way that does not seem like pure spam, I am always available to talk or at least consider the offer presented (if by email).

Startups probably get contacted a lot with different offers, but not so much that a startup founder should let gatekeepers decide the fate of future cooperation.

Gatekeepers are the biggest reason for startup failure. In addition to the founders’ arrogance, gatekeepers stop the universe from helping the startup out. Yes, there are hundreds of salespeople who will try to sell you a service or product you do not need or want, but there are also potential partners or service providers that can help your business grow. When you have gatekeepers or poorly chosen employees in key positions, you are essentially shutting the door to any potential cosmic help.

Gatekeepers include the executive assistant, receptionist, secretary, but also any closed-minded or risk-averse manager chosen for a key position.


Here are a few examples:

  1. I have worked in viral marketing and growth hacking for many years. A few years ago, I reached out to a local fintech company/startup. I brainstormed a lot and came up with a few great growth ideas. I was happy and reached out multiple times to this company’s management, only being able to reach the marketing manager, who was possibly afraid that I might take her job, and turned me down multiple times without even granting me a meeting. Since then, this startup has been doing worse and worse, even after spending huge amounts of money sponsoring an NBA team. A simple marketing manager stopped cooperation with me and prevented me from presenting a few custom brainstormed growth ideas. These ideas, if executed, would have cost a fraction of a fraction of sponsoring an NBA team and would have led to many more customers and much more business.
  2. Another example that I still remember vividly is when a specific department manager of a startup was looking to hire employees for their department. As we offered many outsourcing possibilities (dev, marketing, sales, etc.), I suggested that we could handle this service entirely for her. It would cost her less per employee and we can provide a professional service. It was clear she was perplexed and afraid for her role, a role that might become less important if she were to cooperate with an outside company.

Share if you care

Abdallah Alaili

I'm a serial entrepreneur (mostly tech) and micro-investor (tiny), this is a blog to learn from other entrepreneurs and spread the wisdom to many more. You can find me on: Instagram - Twitter - Linkedin - more about me