Being a startup is definitely a badge of honour these days. It always has been, but it seems to have taken on some whole new meaning. I think part of the reason is that starting a startup is now a more accessible dream than ever. You know the deal: cheap development costs, smarter money, more supportive communities.
There is a tipping point however. A point of no return where your romanticization of what a startup is goes form constructive to destructive.
So I am here to say that I have been staying up late, leaving the porch light on.
First, I have some ideas about what being a startup is not about
The first thing to remember is that everything you have been told about what startups should or shouldn’t do is all bullshit. Every industry, geography, product, and approach is unique and those are the primary determining factors in how you do business. Depending on the resources and opportunities available to you, you may have to do things completely differently than a startup located somewhere else. The people telling you that it is done “this way” or that way obviously haven’t done it before.
And then there is the fact that most of the people you are listening to are more successful at getting attention than they are at actually running a business. They are hyper networkers and quite influential, but they are not role models. Being a startup is not about being a personality. It helps, but it isn’t the endgame.
Don’t forget that partying != networking. It’s ok to go out and have a good time, but please do not tell yourself that it is business, no matter who you are rubbing shoulders with. That goes for conferences and the idea that being involved in “the community” is important to your business. Being in the community is important to you, but being in front of your customers is what is important to your startup. Learn to balance this.
So, what is being a startup about? I can give you some ideas.
Creating. More than anything, a startup has to be about creating something new. This is the primary part of the definition that separates Startups from Service Providers. Founders and early employees need to be willing to get their hands dirty in the clay in order to shape something unique.
Seeing. There is no science to being a startup, so your best bet is to get your paintbrush and play the artist. Anyone who takes a scientific approach to creating a startup may get lucky, but they won’t be able to handle the certain uncertainties of startup life. Being a startup is about designing a future for your product, company, culture and market that you will be able to realize, but the mechanics of which you are able to create as you go.
Discipline. This is an easy one to forget. Every flaw you have will be magnified under the lens of money, people and uncertainty. Stay focused.
Ignorance. There is always a reason why what you are doing won’t work. You need to learn to ignore the opinions and objections that don’t matter. Your job is to prove them wrong. Some advice just isn’t worth taking.