At Haggerston Times, we bang the drum for entrepreneurs and startups everywhere.
We’re pro-disruptive services, and we’re always on the lookout for the new business idea that cuts right through the cr*p and solves a silly problem that, more often than not, is making some global corporate silly money.
But we are also here for another reason, and that reason is to let all of you guys know that building a startup ain’t easy. Oh no.
On many occasions over the past couple of years, during an event or pitching night we’ve heard the startup scene described as being like the Wild West – and we’re not going to try and deny that for one moment.
Well, perhaps the simile doesn’t stretch that far because to the best of our knowledge nobody got shot in the kneecap whilst trying to build a startup. Nobody took a bullet between the eyes because their investors found their cap table mildly insulting.
Nobody got their skull cracked with the butt end of a rifle in a bar-room / brothel bust up after an argument about how they were measuring user engagement, nobody got tied to a rail-track because the dev team delayed the release of version 2.0, and as far as we are aware, nobody has been filled so full of lead they could “use their thing as a pencil” because their hockey stick projections turned out to be hokum.
So, let’s be grateful for that. But let’s not ignore the fact that the startup world can be ruthless, it can be nasty, there are a lot of shady characters operating within it, very few sheriffs, and occasionally, the wrong kind of people get a hold of the street.
Plus, and we make a point of saying this every time we blog these days, there’s that horrid old statistic that just refuses to go away – 9 out of 10 startups don’t make it.
Even by Wild West standards, that’s a hard number to digest.
So, let’s think about why it’s the case.
Well, to begin with, some startups don’t have the luck – they have a good idea, a strong founding team, they recruit well, execute with aplomb, mix in the right circles; but maybe they launch just at the point when a trend turns against them, a macro-level systemic failing causes investment to dry up, or a technological innovation renders this particular solution to the problem obsolete.
We’ve seen it happen on countless occasions.
Other startups fail before they have even begun because the founders are launching for the wrong reasons – they lack passion, direction, and determination and are only in the space in protest at being laid off by their corporate sugar daddies.
Or they are passionate and determined, but lack the social skills to build and inspire a team. Or they are too cautious, and never come out of beta; or they are too bold, and nobody takes their product seriously.
There are no shortage of reasons, and we can learn from all of them.
But you know what gives your startup the absolute best chance of succeeding? You, of course ; )
Success as an entrepreneur is all about character. Some people have it in sufficient quantities; about one in ten, as it happens.
If you want to launch a startup, you really want to be the kind of person who loves a rollercoaster ride.
Who knows how to throw their hands in the air and scream for joy (because you wanna go faster) when the ride gets fast and bumpy, but equally doesn’t mind the buttock-clenching, tear inducing feeling that you are clinging on by the skin of your teeth – that nothing separates you from the edge of the precipice but a piece of worn Velcro in vomit inducing shades of fluorescent yellow and dayglow pink.
The Wild West didn’t throw up too many comedians – there was scarcely time to come up with an act – but the shared experience left its mark on the protagonists’ progeny’s worldview.
People like Bill Hicks – who also knew a thing or two about roller-coaster rides. He said:
“The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly coloured, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while.”
“It’s just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that?”
Don’t take yourselves too seriously founders, or you really will get hurt. It’s just a ride. And just like Wild Bill told us “we can change it any time we want”. There’s no shame in that.
Know that it won’t be easy, and know that there’s no shame in failure. But if you do commit, commit 100%. Don’t pay any mind to the bystanders gaping at you in disbelief. They’re just jealous.