Startups have a tough job: work with almost nothing, start with no capital, have few people applying to work, a book full of to-dos to complete, milestones to achieve, and grow faster than a dinosaur used to.
So, startup communities sprout up overnight and almost everyone starts to pitch in. Ideas are exchanged, advice is freely given out, and there’s tons of encouragement that any startup founder can gain value from. Often, there’s also advice that’s not right. Periodically, articles and blog posts are published with information that’s often one-sided (that of the author and not of the entrepreneur reading it).
Because this information comes from people “who’ve been there and done that” or from credible sources such as popular business publications, the advice is deemed to be true and accurate. It’s just taken for granted.
Didn’t we learn that we are unique?
No one is like you and no one has the same problems you have. Combine that kind of advice with our own hopes, aspirations, fears, myths, and our actual circumstances and what once seemed difficult almost feels impossible.
Your startup is your baby. You founded it because of your own dreams, aspirations, and ambitions. You have reasons for your journey into entrepreneurship. Obviously, you also have constraints financially, geographically, emotionally, and circumstantially. Most advice is general. So what should you do? That’s easy to figure out. More important is what you shouldn’t do.
Here are some really stupid things startup communities will have you believe:
GROW FAST AND FAIL OFTEN
You can grow and fail. Do it as many times as your sanity allows you. You certainly don’t have to be too fast and fail too often. Note that the advice isn’t bad: if anything, it will bring you priceless experience and loads of maturity. You’d be more experienced than any average business school professor who has authored twenty textbooks.
Yet, growing too fast is to your own detriment, as the 37 Signals book Rework tells you. Think about it: growing too fast would mean that you’d stretch your resources unnecessarily. You’d spend too fast in the hopes of growing too fast. You’d scale up disproportional to your profits. You’d be reckless then, not enterprising.
It’s not surprising then that you’d fail fast too. Failure is an awesome teacher, but do it too fast and you’d not know why you are failing in the first place.
Next time you get advice such as this one, ask: how soon should I grow and how often should I fail? If there is not etched in stone, can I determine my own pace for my startup?
Thank you very much.
AIM FOR VENTURE CAPITAL FUNDING
Every startup should launch, grow organically, and scale as much as they can given their state of incoming sales and assets available (human resources or other investments). Getting venture capitalist funding, however, is not something everyone should look for.
Whether you are looking for VC funding or not, you should know this: If you are an entrepreneur who started out on your own because you never wanted to be answerable to anyone but yourself, looking for VC funding defeats that very purpose. If you are funded, you are answerable, accountable, and responsible for profits. Not so much for you, but for those who funded you.
PUT IN EXTRA LONG HOURS
Sure, a startup would mean long hours and plenty of sacrifices. It doesn’t mean that you bleed to death. It never meant that you sacrifice your life for your startup.
A startup doesn’t have to be responsible for a pressure cooker that your office suddenly turns itself into. You don’t have to push people over the cliff to get things done.
Hello? Wasn’t there a thing called productivity? Why do you have to put in 16 hours a day when you can accomplish that in 8-10 hours?
Wasn’t your management style and effective leadership skills supposed to lead people to work better? Aren’t your own productivity lessons going to set an example for everyone else in your company to follow?
This stress taken on by founders to push, perform like a superhero instead of a startup founder, and drive people crazy feeds off on the thing we talked about earlier—the need for scaling, the hunger to grow quick, the mad pursuit of venture capital, which is often a result of rapid growth and potential.
That’s how one bad advice grows off another.
Take your time to run your startup. Make way for your life.
TECH STARTUPS ARE HOTTEST
A startup is any company that runs on meager resources, with little or no capital investment, and grows organically. At least, we define it that way.
But who said it has to be a tech startup? If you can roll off a company that deals with alternative energy, cement, constructions, oil, real estate, or possibly any other industry, do so.
Case in point: Elon Musk is a super entrepreneur who founded the ubiquitous and ground-breaking payment gateway PayPal, sold it off to eBay, and went on to start a rocket manufacturing company Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). No connection? That’s the connection! Do whatever you’re sure about—that’s what Warren Buffet repeatedly advises (and does).
A hot startup is one with potential. You’ll be “hot” when you show the world that your startup has promise. If there’s enough proof that your startup could bootstrap but still grow; make money but not spend too much; attract some formidable talent despite all odds; could be funded but chooses not to – you are steaming!
That’s all that matters.
LAUNCH YOUR STARTUP IN SILICON VALLEY
Thank God Silicon Valley isn’t on the moon. You could be in China, Argentina, Nigeria, or Singapore and still start a business. Even if you were in Botswana or Chile, you could still do business focusing on the US market.
It’s true that there’s an ecosystem of startups in the Silicon Valley. It’s also true that it’s one of the best places to start and run a business. That high tide isn’t that high anymore. According to Simon Black who goes by the name Sovereign Man, the US is hardly a place to live, let alone build a business.
Thanks to the Internet, available technology, and presence of skilled manpower anywhere in the world—why should you limit yourself to a specific geographic locale?
Think about it.
What’s some of the advice on startups you’ve heard that you don’t really agree with? Let us know in the comments…