I've been in the startup business for a while and it still amazes me how many
founders (including me at various points in my life) have completely irrational
views on how life at a startup is going to be.
As it turns out, lots of success requires a sprinkling of luck to work, but
counting on this luck to come up at the magical times is foolish. So, stay up
late at night working on the business and improving the product for customers --
not what deciding what you're going to wear to the startup ball when the magical
startup fairy comes tapping at your window. In other words, quit running
advanced spreadsheet models on how your revenues are going to grow if you can
get only 1 out of 4 users to tell their friends. (See #1 below).
Founders: Stop Hoping for Magic and Start Working
1. Somebody's product is going to "go viral" this year. Someone is also
going to win the lottery. Just not you. Don't count on virality, but
add some simple elements to your product that make them easy to spread.
This will increase the probability that your product will go viral to
something slightly above zero (instead of zero).
2. Venture capitalists are not swash-buckling risk-takers that are going to
fall in love with your startup at first sight -- and write you a check.
Unnecessarily daring people do not become VCs -- the industry filters most of
those out. Work at not needing the money. If you could use
the money, get multiple VCs interested.
3. Smart people are not going to be lining up to work for your startup,
without salary, just for the sheer thrill of "the startup life" and an ability
to be associated with the brilliance that is your idea. Be reasonable
about it. Expecting team members to take some risk for some time is fine. But,
that's not a great strategy to recruit a great team.
4. Big company executives are not going to be inviting you into their
wood-panelled offices with old leather chairs offering you increasingly
lucrative partnership deals just because of "synergies" they might have with
you. Big companies have teams dedicated to keep an eye on startups like
yours. Just because they spend time with you doesn't mean you're getting a deal
anytime soon. Just because you get a deal, doesn't mean it's a good
5. Google, Microsoft and others are not going to be falling all over
themselves trying to acquire your company. Acquisitions are great when
you can get them. But, they're usually complicated and take time. Get great
Now, here's the good news. If I happen to be wrong about any of the above
ones and you do indeed get lucky on one of these things, the chances that you're
going to get lucky on others goes up. So, keep crankin'. The magical startup
fair may never show up, but you're better off not waiting for her anyways.