One of the first-time entrepreneurial initiations is going around telling people about your new venture. You are filled with excitement, and hopeful that this is the opportunity that you’ve always dreamed about. This venture may make you financially independent one day, and you can retire your parents, long before they need to. You’ve been working secretly during odd hours of the day and night to build something of value, and you’re finally ready to tell the world.
Then comes reality.
You begin to encounter all the people who are chomping at the bits to tell you what you need to do, what you aren’t doing well, and why you won’t succeed. You hear about all the companies that are doing what you’re doing, and why the 800 lbs gorilla is just that. You meet the so-called “experts” who tell you the sad story about how they tried something like that a couple years ago and how there’s no market opportunity. Everyone quotes the latest BusinessWeek article, and points you to all the successful feel-good stories of someone’s magical ascent from bootstrapping entrepreneur, to mogul. The be like ______ chorus begins. What is never mentioned is that what makes you successful 3 years from now is completely different than what will make you successful today. Environments change, competition changes, and path to success changes.
The amazing part is very little of what you hear from others is reality. The only thing real is the precense of detractors.
I have recently had an opportunity to sit down and grab lunch with Mike Evans, co-founder of Grubhub. Grubhub just finished closing a $2 million Series B VC financing. If you read any of the sensational articles in BusinessWeek, you’d expect a company like GrubHub to have been founded eighteen months ago, and needed to raise $10 million, and burn through it in less than a year. The fact of the matter is that they grew the right way, with revenue, over five years ago, in the face of competition, without a huge bank account. This is the normal path of the entrepreneurial venture, not necessarily a made for TV story that the detractors like to quote when talking about building companies that matter.
Recently, Twitter just turned 3-years old. Media companies talk about it as if it was just recently conceived, but if you look at the first sketches, it is from 2000! There’s no way that Jack Dorsey knew that it was going to be one of the hottest distribution platforms created, but if you look at all of the comments about the launch, even from the pundits, you see that the initial reactions were much less than favorable. If he would have stopped there and listened to the rants of the comments thread, Twitter would have never mattered. Instead, he created a valuable company from something that wasn’t valuable, which is the path of all start-ups.
If you’re starting a venture, stop listening to experts, and start evolving your strategy and continue to iterate your product or service. Nobody is going to know your market opportunity or how to attack it, and it’s not going to happen in day 1 or day 2000. I just finished reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and one of the factors that he attributes to success is getting to the 10,000 hour mark. So get your startup to the 10,000 hour mark. Stop parading at every single conference listening to canned success stories, and instead, put your head down and do some real work. It takes time, patience, with very little fanfare.
In a good post on O’Reilly’s Radar,
Instead of focusing on hype and mega-growth, we can focus on building companies that serve customers in a fundamental way. That’s what matters.