Frederik Van Lierde

The Fake Metrics That Sabotage Startups

Success is often measured by key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics. These metrics are crucial for gauging a startup's growth, attracting investors, and making informed strategic decisions. However, a dark underbelly exists in the startup ecosystem – the use of fake metrics. Startups, in their quest for success, sometimes fall prey to the allure of inflated numbers that ultimately do more harm than good. The Fake Metrics That Sabotage Startups

The Allure of Vanity Metrics

Vanity metrics, the deceptive sirens of startup progress, can be intoxicating. Founders, eager to showcase impressive figures, often turn to metrics that may look appealing on the surface but hold little substance. One such metric is the sheer number of app downloads. While a high download count may seem impressive, it doesn't necessarily translate to engaged users or revenue.

Similarly, social media metrics like follower counts can be misleading. Some startups prioritize amassing a large following, believing it signifies widespread interest. However, without real user engagement, these numbers are merely empty shells that fail to contribute to the startup's long-term success.

The Phantom Growth of Monthly Active Users (MAUs)

Monthly Active Users (MAUs) is a metric commonly used to measure a startup's user engagement. Often founders may resort to inflating MAU figures by counting users who are not genuinely active or engaged. This deceptive practice creates a false illusion of growth, making it difficult for startups to identify genuine areas for improvement.

Promoting user engagement through meaningful interactions should be the focus, rather than boosting MAU numbers through misleading tactics. Authentic growth stems from a dedicated user base that regularly utilizes and values the product or service.

The Illusion of Low Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is a critical metric for startups, representing the cost of acquiring a new customer. Some founders, in an attempt to attract investors and appear financially efficient, resort to manipulating CAC figures. They may exclude certain expenses or underestimate the resources required for customer acquisition, painting an unrealistic picture of the startup's financial health.

Promoting financial transparency is crucial for sustainable growth. Instead of artificially lowering CAC, startups should focus on optimizing their marketing and sales strategies to attract high-quality customers who are likely to become long-term supporters.

Chasing Empty Conversions

Conversion rates are another area where startups may succumb to the allure of fake metrics. Focusing solely on conversion numbers without considering the quality of conversions can lead to misguided decisions. Promoting a culture that values meaningful conversions over sheer quantity is essential for long-term success.

Startups must prioritize metrics that align with their core objectives and contribute to sustainable growth. Promoting a genuine understanding of user behavior and fostering relationships based on trust and quality will yield more substantial results in the long run.

The Impact on Startups

The consequences of relying on fake metrics are profound. Investors, attracted by impressive but deceptive figures, may lose trust in the startup ecosystem. Once the truth surfaces, startups risk damaging their reputation and losing valuable opportunities for growth.

Promoting a culture of honesty and authenticity in the startup community is crucial. By emphasizing the importance of genuine metrics and discouraging the use of deceptive practices, the ecosystem can evolve into a more transparent and resilient environment.


The temptation to showcase rapid growth and success can lead to the adoption of fake metrics. However, the short-term gains achieved through such practices can have detrimental effects on the long-term viability of startups. It is imperative to promote a culture that values authenticity, transparency, and genuine user engagement.

By focusing on meaningful metrics and fostering a commitment to ethical practices, startups can build a foundation for sustainable growth and success.