Is the biggest threat to startups in 2014 the internet?

Last week I read a post on The Next Web authored by the very eloquent Ali Mese that suggested that most entrepreneurs fail in 2014 because of the internet.

At first I thought to myself that this was a preposterous claim, that it was perhaps one of those articles that are penned to get impressions on the site. Find me one entrepreneur in 2014 that does not rely on the internet for their business. Maybe there’s a handful of them out there, the measly few who use pen and paper, make phone calls instead of sending emails, do not have a smartphone, and do not check their account balances online. But the vast majority of us use the internet religiously for almost everything we do.

That in itself may be the biggest threat that many new businesses face. Almost everything on the internet makes its owner money by having you click into it. Retailers need you to buy from their pages. Social media sites need you to see the posts that people are paying to promote, and interact with them. Publishers need you to trawl through their site so that they have good traffic, and they need you to see their ads or read their sponsored posts so advertisers pay them Essentially, the internet makes money by distracting us.

the problem.

All that distraction really hinders creativity. Does what I do most days sound familiar?

I usually start work at around 7. I’ll catch up on the news from all the big sites, like TechCrunch, Re/code, and Venturebeat before answering emails and doing work. I’ll clear out the inbox, and just as that’s finished I’ll see a link to something I missed. I’ll read that, and as I get to the bottom of the page, a pop up will show on the site advertising another really informative or interesting piece, perhaps even by someone I know or like. That article will link to a project on someone’s site. Then I’ll get a few replies to my emails, reply to them, and keep reading. The traffic flow will continue, until I’ll take notice of the time, and see that it’s almost 10 and I will have done little to no work.

I feel mentally exhausted at the end of the day, but there will only be about 6 or 7 hours of productive work that was done out of the usual 14-hour workday.

There are other negative effects that come out of it being online all the time, and not being disciplined when it comes to habits. Starting at the light emitted by most devices before bed time will cause your brain to release less melatonin, which means you feel less sleepy, and when you do fall asleep, your sleep is of lesser quality. It’s worse with smartphones and tablets, as the wavelength they emit is more harmful.

You wake up feeling tired and dull, have a coffee (or take your morning hit of cocaine, if you’re Jordan Belfort in the Wolf of Wall Street), and do it all over again. It’ll start to show in your business’s accounts if it’s left unchecked.

the solution.

LEARN > Firstly, learn to separate work and leisure. It’s very cliche, but most of us will find that almost impossible to do, since over the last few years we’ve trained ourselves to check out all the interesting articles on the web.

TASKS > Write down what you need to do in the day, prioritise it, then set achievable goals. If possible, get the tasks that have a high priority done in the early stages of the day. You’re more productive in the mornings. If you’re using a calendar, like Apple’s incredibly good, built-in Calendar application, set your tasks out as events, and leave 1 hour of free time per day. Use this as a buffer if a task takes longer than expected or something unexpected comes up. You can also drag around tasks to reschedule them. Save the articles you want to read for your breaks.

TAKE BREAKS > Duh. It’s very important to have clear breaks. If the lines between break-time and work are blurred, you’ll begin not taking proper breaks, and you’ll begin doing activities that are not work-related, like reading articles, during your work time.

USE TOOLS > You’re definitely not the only one having this problem, and thankfully there have been tools created as a solution. We’ve listed a few of our favourites.

  • Convo is a brilliant tool. It lets you have inter-department communications and has a very minimal, distraction-free design
  • MySammy is a piece of software that measures what you’re doing on your computer, then outputs graphs of when and how you’re most productive
  • Read Later Fast is a Chrome plugin that will compile a read-later list on your browser for offline or online reading. Just right click any URL and it will present you with the option
  • Instapaper is a brilliant tool that lets you save articles to read later. They also have gorgeous mobile apps, and all content syncs cross-platform.
  • Apple Calendar is excellent, since it will sync with all your other Apple devices. #applefanboy
  • StayFocsd is a Chrome plugin lets you block certain websites during a certain period, thus completely removing any distractions.

Oh and the biggest tip of all: do not have the Facebook tab open when you are trying to meet deadlines. It’s difficult for those of us who work in social, but if you have a high priority task, Facebook can wait a few hours.

Have any tips? Feel free to share them with us in the comments.



  1. Charlie Ferris says:

    Love this! During exam time I use StayFocusd (that’s the right spelling) which blocks certain websites so I can no longer access them, but when you do a lot of business related stuff on Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr, that’s kinda hard to do! I always rationalize reading random articles by saying that they’re related to what I study and write about, but I take hardly anything away from them. My lap top is procrastination station. Whoops.

    1. Jose Mathias says:

      Thanks, I’ll add this to the list of tools

  2. Brett Hockey says:

    This is so true. It’s so easy to click around and lose time. As entrepreneurs, time is money. Also Akon said this.

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