Sometimes, the best way to help the startups you care about is to let them die from starvation.
We all know entrepreneurs with terrible ideas, seeking validation, recognition and cash. I was (am?) one of them, and looking back at my startup journey I wish that I hadn't receive the awards and investment that kept me working on the wrong idea for months (although it was a great learning experience).
If you really care about your startup friends, I encourage you to follow these recommendations:
- Feedback / Surveys. If you are asked to provide feedback about an idea, don't be accommodating. Tell them what you really think, even (especially) if it is not nice. A good entrepreneur will be grateful to learn more about your real needs. Perhaps you are simple not part of their target market.
- Install my app / Like my page. If you don't really like a project, why do you have to install their app, register as a user or like their Facebook page? This will inflate their traction metrics, giving the startup team false expectations.
- Crowdfunding / FFF Investment. While you might think you are helping your friends by supporting their Kickstarter campaing or their FFF (Family-Friends-Fools) round, you are probably making them waste their time creating a product nobody wants, and losing your money at the same time.
- Awards. Entrepreneurs need a boost to their ego from time to time. However, receiving an award for a project that is not good enough could be misunderstood as real validation, encouraging founders to keep working in the same direction. Don't support any candidatures you don't really like.