The strange truth is that the tech startup community — that hotbed of capitalist innovation, job creation and individual enterprise that politicians love to talk about — is absolutely stuffed with people who view money as little more than the exhaust of their system, the grease on its wheels, not its reason for being.
It’s not that entrepreneurs don’t care about money — Gates and Jobs and Bezos are heroes to the early-stage crowd because they changed the world *and* reaped the rewards that came with it.
But there’s a deep, almost countercultural, conviction in the maker community that the gains from their efforts — if there are any — should flow to the pirates who helped to build the ship or signed up to go to sea, not the tradesmen who gouged them for supplies when money was short and the adventure had barely begun.
I know this guy that thinks he’s an entrepreneur. He’s not. What he is is a middle manager. He drives a ridiculous BMW, shops at Joseph A Banks, and belongs to a country club. Classic middle manager. He’s always got these ideas for companies to start that never go anywhere. He can’t execute. It’s very discouraging to talk to him.
His classic line is, “All we have to is market it and sell it!” He says this with such enthusiasm that it’s hard to not get caught up in the moment. Yeah! All we’d have to do is go sell it…..easy. Reality drops back on my head when I realize that marketing and selling new products is the hard part.
WTF do you mean all we have to do is market it and sell it? For most businesses, this the exact challenge for getting going. It’s hard to sell the fucking product! Most entrepreneurs aren’t good at selling. Very few are any good at marketing. On top of that, some businesses, daily deals are a prime example, are such that the marketing and selling infrastructure are 100% of the competitive advantage and are nearly impossible to replicate.
Basically, when I hear someone say something like “All we have to do is __________”, the first thing I think is “oh yeah, all we have to do is execute on one major part of the business - the one that creates the competitive advantage.” Problem is that it’s hard to create that competitive advantage.
Most web-based businesses are not that difficult to copy. That’s because most web apps are not that hard to program. The problem isn’t in finding ideas for products. The problem isn’t in building those products (usually). The problem that you have to solve to be successful is getting the customers. Period. The whole purpose of a start-up is answering this question, “How can I get more customers?” That’s what a start-up is. All we have to do is sell it translates into “All we have to do is build the company.” If you don’t take the sales and marketing piece seriously, then you might as well just not bother.
Lawrence of Arabia
To any outside observer, I know I appear to be anything but lazy. And in many ways I suppose I’m not. I have two rental properties (for sale, thank god), a mobile home dealership, a couple web-based businesses, and my start up. So I work a lot. But when it comes to getting the mundane tasks of everyday life accomplished, I’m as lazy as they come. I want to spend my time and efforts focused on birthing my start up from the fetus it currently is to the baby, and eventually adolescent, that I hope it will become. Like the labor my wife recently went through, birthing a start up involves a lot of sheer will, and relentless pushing. Unlike labor, start ups don’t have contractions to help the process along. You just have to do it on your own.
I focus on my projects the way a high school geek focuses on completing the next Quest in World of Warcraft. My wife bears some unfair and unfortunate resemblance to the high school geek’s mom, having to squawk, cojole and sometimes threaten to get me to do the most mundane tasks of life. When she finally overcomes the inertia and gets through to me, I complete the tasks with plodding slowness, meeting only the minimum standard of acceptable quality that will get me back to work. I’m like a grudging third shift gas station attendant.
All of that doesn’t concern me too much. It’s normal to be hyper-focused on the things you like to do, and to despise whatever distracts you from doing those things. However, if I’m being honest, then I have to admit that I’m often lazy when I’m working on my start up as well. It’s easy to spend days doing the easy stuff that isn’t key to moving forward. Since I’m really only accountable to myself, nothing happens if I don’t get anything important accomplished. I just don’t move forward.
Today I own up to that fact. I’ve been avoiding making sales calls because I have no idea how to sell my product to companies. I don’t know how to make sales calls. And despite the fact that my ability to talk is very clearly my greatest asset, I have an aversion to cold calling people out of the blue. I guess I wouldn’t be alone in that - nobody likes to make cold calls. It’d be great if I had some warm leads. But I don’t. I have no idea how to get our first customer. Rather than fixing this major problem, I avoid doing anything, in favor of making tweeks to the site, or dicking around doing bullshit tasks. I admit that my lack of courage is lame and uninspired. It’s the kind of bologna that you might get away with at some faceless big company - endlessly passing the buck to the next schmoe down the line. But I’m an entrepreneur, damn it, and I’m supposed to be better than that. Besides, when I pass the buck, it just comes right back to me since I’m the only guy here.
It should go without saying that being an entrepreneur entails taking the bull by the horns and doing what needs to be done, even when (especially when) I don’t know what to do. Entrepreneurship, like walking, is the art of controlled falling. And like walking, sometimes you fall on your face. Indeed, not knowing what to do is the precise difference between being an entrepreneur and being someone’s employee. Entrepreneurs have to figure out the business plan and business model, while employees just have to execute that model over and over again after it’s figured out.
So today I charge myself with the task of figuring out what to do. Figuring out for a start up means trying stuff and failing over and over again until something breaks through. This process is very much tougher than it sounds, and soon I’ll post an article on the highs and lows of the entrepreneurial life. Anyway, from now on, I focus relentlessly on getting one customer. I have no idea how to accomplish that task. But getting one customer shouldn’t be that hard.
The question was posed a few days ago on Quora.com. Quora is a question and answer site focused heavily on web start-ups and high-tech entrepreneurship. The people who frequent the site are hardened by the very low lows of the entrepreneurial lifestyle. The responses are inspirational, amazing, and at times utterly shocking. Here are a few excerpts:
That was 15 years ago and I think myself every morning for making those decisions to keep trying a little longer just a little bit longer each time until salvation came…
Consider this: For every one person unhappy with life, enough to contemplate taking it, there are over a 1,000 people desperate to try and live another day. They live on a prayer and the hope that a new drug, a new approach, perhaps even a miracle can give them a chance to live on.
46 is the age my grandfather was when he took his life … He drove to the edge of town, pulled his car over to the side of the road, took out a small Derringer .22 pistol and put one bullet in his head. He was found hours later by a deputy sheriff. What ensued for my mother and her family, however, was a lifetime of hurt, anger, frustration, and chaos. He meant so much to my mother. He was her lifeline. And after his suicide, she fell into a tailspin she never recovered from. She died in 2009 at the age of 62, still unable to deal with her father’s death. I’m not saying you have to consider others when you make this decision. All I’m saying is your life may hold more value than you’re able to see at this tough time. You may not have the same perspective that others do, and it may be worthwhile to talk to someone before you act.
I would like to note, as a counterpoint, this thread suffers from survivorship bias in both the statistical and literal sense. People who are perfectly happy with their decision to commit suicide are not available to provide countervailing arguments. It is likely that the true best advice is more pro-suicide than has been demonstrated in this thread. Although exactly how much is methodologically difficult to determine.
I have zero respect for the selfish whiners who complain about the “hole left” by the suicides. Believe me, the hole in your life is a divot compared to the Stygian abyss of your dead loved one. So please, shut up. Perhaps if you had behaved with greater compassion and perceptiveness while that person was alive, they’d not be dead.
I know this answer is outside conventional lines of thinking, but you should make a promise to yourself. If you decide that are you going to kill yourself, take a large dose of psilocybin mushrooms or DMT. I’m serious. It should only be a last option, but see if that don’t change your outlook on life.
This seems like a pretty cut and dried case to me… If you can’t see life getting better for yourself, and you don’t care about other people, then yes, by all means please commit suicide.
Yes, please, you’re ruining the party with this piss poor attitude!
Personally, I don’t have much to add to this array of opinions. On the one hand, the prevailing wisdom, and pretty much everything about life in general, precludes suicide as a reasonable solution. But on the other hand, I can’t relate to the mindset of the person contemplating suicide. So what do I know? Similar to the abortion debate, I just don’t feel qualified to chime in.
For those of you that saw the title of this article and freaked out…..sorry.