I think jwz sums it up best in another post, where he talks about the best case scenario: becoming rich from your startup:
I've known dozens of instant-millionaires so far (from Netscape as well as other companies), and basically, I don't speak to any of them any more, because the money changed them and turned them into fairly creepy people. People who spend $10k on a wristwatch and then brag about it (while trying to aloofly sound like they're not bragging about it.) People whose sense of self-worth has gone nonlinear, because when they look at their brokerage statement, they forget that, while skill was certainly a component of why they got to where they did, luck was also a huge component. Most of these people have never worked for a company that built a good product and failed anyway. They don't have any understanding of the fact that skill is often necessary, but always insufficient. They believe their hype.
Your a low number employee and your company goes public, woohoo you are rich, but people who work with you and came later and are doing the same job as you are not. The cognitive dissonance is huge, people sometimes feel guilty that they are rich and their co-workers aren't, sometimes they feel like they 'must be smarter' because they are rich and their co-workers aren't. Newly rich people want to marvel in it, and share how amazing it is that they can spend 10K on a watch if they feel like it, and the people around them, doing the same work and not rich, well they often aren't all that appreciative of what it must be like.
Those relationships get awkward quickly. And people separate so that they can be with other people where their lifestyle (or lack of it) won't be a source of awkwardness.
Not a lot of people talk about the side effects of 'success' but they should think about it.
The point of the OP's post is that huge sacrifices are necessary for great rewards. I think the truth is more like, your huge sacrifices are necessary so that our investment strategy works.
Meanwhile, guys like patio11 and the 37 Signals team have shown there's plenty of different paths to success. And if you think about what people like Jimmy Wales or Tim Berners-Lee have done, there's lots of ways to "make a dent in the universe" without even forming a traditional company. I know this is crazy talk, but not all roads to greatness involve making a VC rich.
But you know, now that I think about it, I think people are going to read what I just posted and only zero in on the "dozens of instant millionaires" sentence and ask how can I get in on that?
Some people just want to be famous and remembered. Some people want to be something important part of an ecosystem who get to decide a lot of things. Some people just like Power and social status. Some people are in just for the fun of the game.
Some people just want to be happy. List can be really long. Basically its what you truly want.
Depending on that there are different things you need to be successful. There is no silver bullet.
You're leaving out risk and experience:
* Employee #3 takes more risk than employee #30 who took more risk than employee #300.
* More importantly, even if they have the same roles when employee #30 joined, odds are that employee #3 was involved in quite a few other things in quite a few other roles and has had a fundamentally different impact on the team and organization as a whole.
Disclosure: I'm with a startup popular around here.. but my number is well into the double digits. ;)
Don't confuse the 'why' some folks are more handsomely rewarded at a liquidity event, with 'what it does to them.'
Here is the situation, person A in a four person cube is a multi-millioniare on paper, person B, C, and D are still unable to come up with a down payment on a house.
Person B, "Hey A, what are you doing this weekend?"
Person A, "We're flying up to Oregon to go helicopter skiing on Mt Hood, its wicked cool, I got a new set of bump skis and that Rossingol gortex super suit, can't wait to try it out. How about you?"
Person B, "Uh, a BBQ on the balcony of C's apartment. I guess you're busy."
Now person A might be a douchbag here but they might simply be honestly answering the question. And in the answering, its awkward because its hard to imagine them not going helicopter skiing so that could could come over and have tri-tip at your place and play Wii or watch the game.
But at work they all work on the same part of the system, they all have similar roles and similar levels of responsibility.
Person A, if they have any empathy at all, will quickly recognize that it makes non-rich people uncomfortable to talk about stuff like this, and they stop (and then appear 'withdrawn' to people B, C, and D.) and they start hanging out with the other low number folks who are doing their own crazy things and so feel neither threatened nor jealous nor uncomfortable with discussions that involve spending 15 - 20 thousand dollars for a weekend outing.
Sometimes people B, C, and D will respond affirmatively and supportively, sometimes they will attempt to make person A feel like a douchebag (even if they aren't) to salve some inner wound. How folks respond to that varies by person, I don't know if you can know apriori how you personally will respond until you are in that position.
I still think your "similar roles and similar levels of responsibility" point is incomplete. Employee #3 will always have a different relationship with the company - and its leadership - than employee #30. They've been through quite a bit together that #30 was not there for and there will be a different level of trust, authority, etc. It's not a criticism, just a situation.
It's the difference of going to school with the same kid since kindergarten and the new kid getting there in high school. There's quite a bit of history.. good or bad.
I bet you he'd say yes.
"But who said everything has to be fun? Pain builds character. (Sometimes it builds products, too.)"
I will instead answer the question you should be asking. A: "No." Q: "Should I believe to VCs who tell me what's good for me?"
Exactly. In fact all fun thing is said to make your position look a little good. Its not good if you depict the path to success as a painful journey. To make your story glorious you need to look like a hero and for that you need depict accomplishments in the most glorious way and make them seem effortless(fun).
Imagine a situation, if you are giving an advice to a young man. You will rather tell him to work on things he likes to work(fun) than on the ones he doesn't like. Although this is the advice in theory you would like to give. Deep within yourself you know very well, doing something big will require you to do stuff you don't like to do. Undergo, pain and sacrifice which you wouldn't like to endure normally.
Also 'struggle' is one the reasons most normal people are OK with their normal lives. I think most people just lack the required level of motivation and desire to overcome the pain to undergo the 'struggle' in the path to success. Most people just drop the plan to work hard calling it 'not worth it'.
People like to believe in a easy way out. They like to believe luck exists. Because that will give them an unfair advantage over others. That is, they can get rich even without working.
Hardwork is so inglorious, it make success look obvious. And moreover when you look at the big picture. It looks karma.
I feel startup world is highly skewed in favor of investors and founders. I have worked at a startup and now I would think twice before working for another startup, since rewards don't add up to effort and time because of odds.
Another application of the rule to startups:
No, sorry, but you probably aren't. Zynga isn't changing the world and neither are 99.9% of the startups coming out of SV.
The over-working culture is exactly that - a culture. It has nothing to do with actual reality, and everything to do with perceived reality. Great, long-term companies aren't built by entrepreneurs who sleep 2 hours a night.
P.S.: not getting enough sleep decreases productivity. The 37Signals guys have covered this a few hundred times at this point. I also seem to recall Richard Branson saying that he "needs his 8 hours."
I think the culture of correlating working longer with working harder comes from occupations where there is a relatively close connection between the two, such as in occupations that primarily involve physical labor. However, a lot of the work done by startup founders is not in the physical realm, and therefore the efficiency with which that work is completed can vary drastically depending on the mental state of the worker. Of course, the worker's mental state is heavily dependent on his/her sleep schedule.
And I say that as someone who needs work-life balance -- that's why I don't have a startup. I want to spend time with my wife and kids and hobbies and things, so I have a nice job that I can go to every day and then come home again.
Expecting to maintain work-life balance while creating a startup is bringing a knife to a gunfight.
The point being, you can sprint in a crunch. You can sprint to meet a deadline next week. But unless you expect your company to be bought a week after you found it, you should probably be pacing yourself at least a little. Go ahead and give up work/life balance- for a medium-term project you can risk burnout- and go ahead and work 16 hours a day. But get 8 hours of sleep.
Yes, but these people are (physiologically) the exception not the rule (this characteristic is not uncommon for sailors, for some types of race sailing it's pretty much a base requirement).
Studies show that chronic lack of sleep is equivalent of being drunk when driving. Do we really want the cognitive equivalent of drunk workers "changing the world"?
On the other hand, don't completely discount the possibility that some of the people you know have access to amphetamine. Careful use can sustain performance for weeks before tolerance sets in.
Amphetamine abuse shows up a lot in all the places you'd expect -- athletes, military personnel, emergency services and hospital workers, even lawyers. With the pressure to perform, it wouldn't surprise me if it's a quiet problem in startups, too, especially since drug testing is pretty much anathema to the culture.
> outrace competitors and adapt quickly to whatever
> comes up.
> But the point of starting a startup isn't to do things that are long-term sustainable
I agree that constantly over-working can have a detrimental effect, but so can not reacting to the 'right' deadline.
I've seen the result of an extremely successful startup (many years back) after the IPO and multiple stock splits, and no doubt there was a 'effort debt' being paid by the company after that period.
However, I very much doubt many of those people financially regretted their efforts. They won the lottery.
I'd add a qualifier to that. They aren't usually built by entrepreneurs who get very little sleep. They sometimes are, though, and sometimes it's because a person in good physical health has a very important task to complete in a short amount of time, like the example cited in the article of JWZ helping build a web browser.
Mid and long-distance runners (or cyclist) don't sprint for kilometers, they sprint when they have to. And if you have to sprint all the time, something's wrong.
That is just hyperbole. In reality is more like sleep 8 hours and work 12 to 16 hours a day.
In startups, marathon work sessions should be kept to a minimum. They're valuable and they're a useful tool. But they come at a massive cost. The more you rely on them, the less effective they become and the harder it is for the person who participates in them to reach their original productivity without massive amounts of downtime in between sessions. If you're going to commit to some crazy over-working session, you better have a damn good reason. Most startups who push this culture don't.
To me at least, and as an outsider, I'd say things like this may hold up for founders, but as a non-founder you better be young and have very little in the way of commitments. Get the experience and use what you've learned to found something yourself.
As a caveat, I am obviously not well in on the startup scene, but from what I've seen & heard over the years, there's very little to tempt me as an employee.
Or maybe I am being myopic? Are there more options to be had in life than mediocrity/wageslavery vs glory/startups?
There are billions of people on this planet. Do you think that the ones who aren't in Silicon Valley startups are all miserable? Their lives aren't worth living?
Ok, but more specifically. Let's say you want to lead a creative existence, working with technology, and you love the SF scene so much you just have to live here. You don't need to be in a startup for that. As they tell you to be frugal with a startup, be frugal with you life and all sorts of possibilities open up.
I know a number of people living in "hacker homes" where they drift in between working on startups, technology jobs, and then working on projects that just interest them. Sometimes they'll take an entire year off work to do something with no monetary gain, like a Burning Man or an open source project. You might have to live in an less desirable area with a lot of housemates, but once your rent is sub-$1000 and you cook most of your own food, you can live for an entire year once you've pulled off a couple of consulting gigs.
You're young, and I presume you don't have a spouse or kids, so this option is very possible for you.
Don't take on investors: make a product that earns money. Don't hire full or part time employees: find intelligent automated solutions to tricky problems or bring on contractors as necessary. Having control over what you make and when you make it means (for me, at least) more sleep, more money and less wasted time making someone else's dream a reality.
I'm all for exploring unconventional lifestyle design patterns. And I have been nursing certain plans of becoming a techno-hippie :)
A lot of my friends work for the Wikimedia Foundation, Thunderbird, Mozilla, Tor, and so on. There's no possibility of walking away as a zillionaire, but neither do you have to work with (or for) dickwads who are only in it for the money and who are out to screw you out of your share. And if you're any good, there's a guarantee of doing something significant that you can point to later on your resume, should you want to go the entrepreneurial route. These organizations are global, so you get to do a fair bit of travelling too.
Non-profits have their own special brand of problems, but if you tally up the pros and cons they are definitely an option.
I don't think you get a job at Tor without being personally known to the developers. Volunteer, I guess.
Obviously this varies depending on where you are in the organization. But the bottom line is: there are always dicks, and they always try to screw somebody (that's what dicks do), and in startups, there are probably more of them because millions is more interesting than power over a few people.
I thought basically the same thing you did as a teenager, and when I was formulating my career plans after college, it was "startups or bust". It turns out that employees at Google, Facebook, Mckinsey, Goldman Sachs, numerous hedge funds, and probably even some old-economy companies actually have quite a bit of freedom to do their jobs with creativity and excellence. Good managers don't try to control employees - they manage them, so that the employee's natural talents and inclinations are matched up to the needs of the organization. And a manager at a fast-growing company probably got put in that position because somebody else thought he would do well at it, while a manager at a startup got that way because he hated his old job enough to quit.
There're certainly things wrong with big companies - I could probably name half a dozen areas where Google is dysfunctional and probably not fixable because the dysfunction is an emergent property of having 30,000 people work on a suite of products used by billions. But unless you've worked in both big and small companies, you don't have enough information to understand what dysfunction is inherent to being big and what dysfunction is just the result of getting a bad boss.
Alternatively, you can raise (or save) a moderate amount of cash, work comfortably at whatever pace you choose, and build something scalable and sellable. If you're making quality software, it's not difficult to generate enough passive income to support the lifestyle you want to live.
Take a look at the early blog posts from Balsamiq's Peldi, anything by Patrick Mackenzie, the Wufoo guys, Gary Vaynerchuck, or anything from the 37Signals guys. This talk by DHH never fails to motivate me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CDXJ6bMkMY
(not affiliated with the author in any way, just enjoyed the book myself)
I'd strongly recommend the podcast as well: http://www.startupsfortherestofus.com/
And I'll recommend this one then: http://www.mixergy.com (I am quite active over email with the host and have arranged several of the interviews - Morten Lund and John Robb come to mind)
A startup will likely have stupid ideas about work ethic and they'll probably want to push your compensation into equity. For any startup you join, be realistic, it will not be the next google/facebook. You'll be doing well if it doesn't end up failing. If it does survive, the equity you got will probably be devaluated somehow.
There may be some lottery-level chance of becoming financially independent, but you'll save yourself effort by just working a TPS-land job and buying actual lottery tickets.
A much more consistent approach would be to contract (or consult if you have the chance) and live frugally. With this, you should be able to save up enough money to take a year off every few years.
Sure ... freelance. But depending on how you structure your work, you may end up with a similar work-load as a startup, or failure dropping you back into TPS-land.
I just consider it such a damn waste to sit in an office all day and basically do jack shit. It's not even that I dislike the work all that much, it's just... all those wasted hours. All down the drain.
Startups are tax for people who are good at math, but don't bother checking their odds.
I also merely offered culture as one example, not as the only additional consideration.
And the "exceptionally good company" -> success, borders on tautology, because how else do you measure an exceptionally good company besides success?
"""It's only gambling in the way a professional poker player gambles"""
Yeah, you influence your fate and all. But poker is even less random than startup success --at least randomness there is constrained, will on a startup you have tons of sources of randomness:
The startup founders, the employees, the economy in general, the society in general (fads, etc), investors, the client pool, you name it...
On the surface, there are some obvious truths. Startups are hard; they're definitely not 9-to-5, 5-days-a-week jobs. There are also way too many people who think they're like a normal job but with added rockstar status and the potential to suddenly become fabulously wealthy, as if by random.
But. As Arrington says, it's a mindset thing. It obviously does take huge amounts of effort to get something off the ground, and the people you work with should be selected for their motivation to do that when it's required. The danger is that people will interpret his article to mean that everyone should work long hours all the time; that's simply not right. They should work the hours it takes to reach the goal, assuming the goal is reachable. Machismo is not productive.
While it's true that there's a lot of hard work involved and a lot of people are simply not cut out for it, here are some other truths. Balance leads to creative thinking. Lack of sleep leads to loss in productivity. Burn-out leads to no productivity. A business where you ask your employees to give their lives to the product is fundamentally unsustainable. A company is a community of people, and you have to understand their human needs to keep them motivated.
It's also true that if your employees aren't motivated to reach the goal, something is wrong - either the employee isn't right, or your goal isn't right. It comes down to hiring the right people, having a killer idea that motivates people, and being a good leader.
I also bristle at his comment about unionization. I don't think unions are a bad thing - but any unionization would have to be context-specific for Silicon Valley. There's nothing wrong with collectively bargaining for rights, but it can't be a cookie-cutter solution. I'm pretty sure smart tech people are capable of creating a 21st-century union that supports their rights while keeping the creative flame of their industry alive.
Yes - a strong work ethic is needed to build a company. But hard work won't save a mediocre idea or flawed business model. Don't work hard, work smart - which means working long hours and pushing a deadline when needed. It also means being skeptical and ruthless with your business model, validating your ideas and pivoting when needed.
> Cry less
No. Cry more. Vent and complain. Give yourself emotional release. Your brain needs it. And how can you code optimally or run a company properly when your brain is working at partial capacity?
If you are smiling, happy and confident all the time when building a startup you are probably a deluded idiot. That being said - always exude confidence to your customers and strategic business partnerships. (insert witty remark here about sausage being made) However ALWAYS be brutally honest with yourself and your team. If you are honestly challenging and validating your idea and business model you will lose faith from time to time and may even slip into a funk. THIS IS NORMAL. If you're honest with your team they will find a way to help you through.
> And realize you’re part of history.
This is true in the sense that you are living and breathing and working during the early 21st century - you are a part of history (by this definition every dog is also a part a history, so don't get too excited). But it's highly unlikely that you will make history. Like most people (and most dogs) your startup will toil and die in obscurity. It's absurd to concern yourself with your legacy before you've built something of value. Build a great company and let history make up it's own mind.
Watching the founders leave was the hardest because you could watch them slowly come to terms over the first couple of years that:
a) this actually is harder work than what we left
b) it's not just somebody tossing money at you to go work on your pet projects and screw around, treating the expense account like a personal luxury account
c) there is a reasonable expectation by the investors at the end of all of this
that they will make their money back off of your work
Surprisingly, making the transition to a professional management team was easier than working with the original founders. During the tenure with the founders they made all of the mistakes above, plus acted like petulant children when they ran into each of these problems. Whining, foot stomping (literally), crying, flying cross-country to be away from the team and showing up unannounced at a satellite office. Bizarre behavior.
I guess what I'm saying is that it's not just the work that's hard. It's the intestinal fortitude to deal with technology, business and people, day in and day out -- especially when all three of those things are often acting at odds with each other that makes startup life hard, and being small, with startups those things can be magnified out of all proportion. Minor office quibbles turn into nuclear explosions, a broken technology stack a looming iceberg, lack of sales ability into a waiting sink hole.
People often remark about the perks of working at a startup, but it's those perks that make the often miserable part of the work tolerable. Or at least act as transparent incentives to work more, cry less and quit all the whining -- because at least you get three free meals a day!
I don't know where I got those numbers from -- seems like I've heard PG use a 1-in-10 chance, but you get the general feel for the situation. You should work in such a way as to acknowledge those numbers. I'm not saying don't work hard -- far from it. Just work as if this is stage 1 of a 20-stage process, each stage lasting a year or two. If you're not working in such a fashion that you can go a decade or two, logic says you have mis-configured your work habits.
I had this same attitude when I moved from the commercial world into startups, get your ass in gear and buck up! That was a few years ago, and I've moderated my views quite a bit due to brutal reality. I think part of the problem for me was that I was trying to compare the startup world to either the academic world or to the commercial software world. In both of those scenarios you worked as hard as hell for a limited period of time and then you delivered. You took the test, you released the product, you passed the class.
Startups aren't like that because the work is never done. There is no huge finish line you sprint through. It just keeps going and going. The cutesy way of saying this is "it's a marathon, not a sprint" but I'm not sure that even covers it adequately. It's not a race at all. It's just a long, hard slog. Yeah sure, if you've got traction it is a hell of a roller-coaster ride, but I'd worry about then if-and-only-if that day actually arrives. Work like Facebook did to get their first million users when you actually start attracting hundreds of thousands of users and you're looking that potential in the face, not before.
I think you're better off working really hard for a while - enough to fully explore the problem space you've gotten in - and then taking stock of the situation and learning your lessons. Then, hopefully your odds are better next time, and with any luck, the process eventually converges on success.
If your execution is good and your definition of success is sufficiently modest, that's probably true. But for big successes? It's hard to think of many examples, even in retrospect.
I don't think you could predict the overwhelming success of a Facebook or Google in any reasonable timeframe. However, you could probably be fairly certain that Mark Zuckerburg was sitting on something useful once he got a few thousand people to sign up.
I don't complain because I'm the boss, but I suppose if I were an employee banking on big returns, I might be a bit more skittish.
This is why so many entrepreneurs are creating their own startups, for better or worse.
What will be a part of history is the bubble itself.
That's not advice. It's ignorance.
If you cannot get your work done in eight hours a day there is probably something that's off. Maybe you're underestimating the work. Maybe you're being optimistic about your deadlines. Maybe you're not being honest with yourself about how efficiently you're using your time in the day.
After eight hours of working on one thing I'm done. If I've used every hour of that day to it's full potential I don't have the will or inclination to keep working. I usually feel pretty good about going home. Tomorrow's another day at the dream factory. I'll decompress, read a book, hack on something fun, hang out with my wife, get my sleep and tomorrow I'll wake up fresh and ready for the new set of challenges.
Whenever a manager or project lead tells me something along the lines of, "just do what you have to do and get it done," I just want to instinctively tackle them and slap them hard across the face. Not because I hate working but because they're standing on the tracks and there's a big freight train coming that they're not seeing. Managers who do that are lazy and are just passing the buck. If they don't want to hear why they're about to get hit by a giant freight train you owe it to the team to do something about it.
You don't do that by keeping your mouth shut and your nose to the grind stone.
Edit: Fixed some spelling issues.
You may do a quick comparison and call that extra work 'not worth it' when you compare against other aspects of your life that demand time. But after say a decade when you look back and find that guy to have taken a huge leap ahead of you, suddenly you get that thought that occupies every person in such a situation:
'Why couldn't have I done that?'
And then starts the analysis. You will end up finding that you were a lot more intelligent than him yet the guy somehow manage to beat you.
That's when you will realize the most dangerous fact of the world.
Hard work * time gives surprising success.
In my case I will rather take my chances do more work than my peers and even fail. Then have a regret that I could have worked hard and won but I didn't.
As a I CEO I will have all the money in the world to chase any hobby/fun activity I will ever want. Also my kids and family are enjoying luxury and privileges which other families aren't so even they are happy.
Also I have time and patience only for one hobby. Most of the time even with a touch schedule I manage to work on my hobby.
What a stupid asshole I was.
The truth was I just felt like I was getting more done. Maybe on the first night or two of this I would. But after hour ten and eleven go by it started taking me longer to form sentences and get my ideas out. And it seemed that despite my best efforts writing unit tests and all that, my code would somehow still come out buggy. After a few weeks of this I wasn't being effective; I was just feeding the fire and making more work for myself.
Now I find ways to get more done in a day before I just shrug and throw in more over time. This has lead me to become very disciplined in how I approach my day. Sometimes it feels a little routine, but I have more energy for my work and am ready to relax when I'm done. I show to the office 30-40 minutes early and get some code kata time in to warm up. Then I get a coffee, review team updates, and get down to hacking. When my editor is open I'm just coding. If it's not open, I'm at my whiteboard jotting down notes and making plans on how to solve the problem so that when my editor is open I'm just coding. Social interaction happens at specific points in the day and I keep it short and sweet. The afternoon is when I get the most work done. When five o'clock comes around I've usually gotten everything done that I wanted to do that day so I leave.
Now that I'm a little older I see the young guys in the office doing what I used to. They throw themselves at the work. They work late for weeks at a time. They come to the stand ups all grizzled looking and swaying like an exhausted frond of seaweed. And sometimes they still manage to slip their stories for the sprint.
You know what changed my mind? Death. We're all just getting older. There are no do-overs in life. Once your youth is gone it's gone for good. I don't have any kids myself yet so the center of my life is my career but that doesn't stop me from doing the things I want to do. I like to go camping, rock climbing, spending time with my wife and our friends. I like to spend lazy afternoons reading and occasionally stay up late writing. The worst thing I can imagine is wishing you had enjoyed your time on this earth more when you had the chance.
"There is always, repeat always who is going to do more work than you."
This is true. The trick is to be smarter than them -- do more of the right things, do the right things more right, and make wise choices to create leverage.
We could "trust you" that it is "inevitable he will end up being successful someday." OR we could look at the startup graveyard and see how many people who worked their fucking asses off, harder than anybody else, still, in the end, failed.
Because they didn't put all their focus into creating leverage, because they thought "working hard" was enough, or even "working smart."
Brute force is almost never the answer.
"Working harder" is a fool's game, because any fool can play it.
You've nailed exactly what I was getting at. Thank you, sir.
Now I work less and make more money. I'm still brushing my skills, and the more I do the more I realize that I can go further. Before you start a Start-up, make sure you have the necessary skills and that you have mastered them quite well.
Make a plan. Put 8-10/hours of work per day. Take at least 7 hours of sleep. Practice sport. Meet with your friends (but don't let them distract you). If you plan the time required for your startup to get up and running (coding, testing, papers, marketing, capital...), then you'll be able to work in healthy conditions and meet deadlines.
And doing that you'll be called a HARD WORKING person. Because no one else (or few) is doing it. If you are doing what the author suggests then you might possibly end up destroying your startup, health, relations and life.
"Economically, you can think of a startup as a way to compress your whole working life into a few years. Instead of working at a low intensity for forty years, you work as hard as you possibly can for four. This pays especially well in technology, where you earn a premium for working fast."
I don't really understand all the backlash in this thread against hard work in pursuit of a big goal.
Having said that, if you're young, dedicated and focussed and it interests you - hell, have a crack. But know what you're doing - startups are always a gamble.
It's very weird - it's like walking into a room where you thought you knew everyone, but all of a sudden they're talking in a different language.
The wealth essay is very good, and I recommend it and forward it to all sorts of people.
It's all about mindset rather than actual work practices.
Honestly this is a great attitude to instill in your employees, they will kill themselves for the company and when they burn out you can hire some more. You really can get a lot done when you can convince people to sacrifice their lives. Just make sure you and your technical advisers get enough sleep and downtime to think clearly and stay motivated and sharp.
If you are a developer then hopefully you've read enough about your profession to know how real work gets done.
Maybe you are too naive to know that there are people who are more than happy to sell you a dream so you'll work yourself stupid, selling a chunk of your life for a lottery ticket (but hey, some of them do pay off).
That naiveté won't last long in this business, so don't worry, you'll learn one way or another.
> In 1983, the 61-year-old potato farmer won the first Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon (875 kilometres, 544 miles). The race was run between what were then Australia's two largest shopping centres: Westfield Parramatta, in Sydney, and Westfield Doncaster, in Melbourne. Cliff arrived at the start line with overalls and gumboots. He ran at a slow loping pace and trailed the leaders for most of the course, but by denying himself sleep and running while the others slept, he slowly gained on them and eventually won by a large margin.
> The Westfield run took him five days, 15 hours and four minutes, trimming almost two days off the record for any previous run between Sydney and Melbourne. All of the six competitors who finished the race broke the previous record, but Young beat them by running while they were sleeping.
Lacy cites companies like Twitter and Zynga as success stories. Neither of these were created by newbies. Evan Williams spent five years at Blogger. Marc Pincus had already sold one company and has a Wharton MBA. I've seen startups created by people who haven't even seen functional companies exist. That doesn't exactly inspire confidence in VCs, employees, or customers.
If you don't have experience and connections, partner with someone who does, whether it be an incubator, a co-founder, or an angel investor. Suck it up and give them a cut disproportionate to their efforts on your project. Just make sure they have valid advice and connections, and that they actually answer your emails. This is the model YC companies take as well as what fueled Facebook (Zuck/Parker).
If there is no decision maker in or closely tied to your company with relevant experience, you will most likely have to work this hard to get anything off the ground. You will cry. You will suffer exhaustion. Why? Because you are competing against experienced people who have a vested interest in your failure. Even if you are in a different space entirely, you still compete with them for funding, mindshare and talent.
You can work yourself to death. If your model is flawed because you've never actually seen a functional company work, much of the work you do is spent simply spinning your wheels to find traction.
You're a part of history whatever you do. Spend time with your friends and family, volunteer to help others, get outdoors and enjoy the world. Take some college classes if you like, and drop out if you like. Learn something beautiful and utterly useless like calligraphy. Travel to India. Explore ideas, meditation, and Zen. I daresay your startup will be better, stronger, faster, and make a bigger dent in the universe.
Very few startups are destined to be great or even decent. Very, very few. It's a shame that so many are getting so much hype without justification these days.
Most startups I see are weekend projects, or 3-6 month endeavors that really don't qualify as being a part of history and are dominated by goal of making money. However, considering the author it's safe to say that Arrington is assuming that you're actually trying to MAKE A DIFFERENCE, instead of building the next coupon loyalty program with game theory and achievements. It's probably also safe to say that someone with his universally accepted work ethic is probably seeing alot more 'whining' in his current role than previously exposed to.
> Much more important than working hard is knowing how to find the right thing to work on. Paying attention to what is going on in the world. Seeing patterns. Seeing things as they are rather than how you want them to be. Being able to read what people want. Putting yourself in the right place where information is flowing freely and interesting new juxtapositions can be seen. But you can save yourself a lot of time by working on the right thing. Working hard, even, if that's what you like to do.
Just because Microsoft, Facebook, or Netscape had long and crazy hours in the startup days doesn't mean you need to do the same thing to build the next Microsoft, Facebook, or Microsoft.
It's rather immature thinking to assume there is only one way to do something like this, or even that "this is just the way things work" when your company is based in a certain area of the country (Silicon Valley, California).
It doesn't take very much overtime for productivity to absolutely plummet. We're not talking just a small time drop here. Rather it's a free fall of 80% or so. This means that even if an engineer works 120 hours every week, he will still not be as productive as if he worked the standard 40-50!
More goofing-off time, running errands during work, an extreme increases in defect rates etc, are just some of the reasons.
Steve McConnel discusses this at length in his 1996 book "Rapid development", citing large amounts of case studies, books and other research.
The irony is that these guys who give the bravado laden "quit the whining, put in the hours" speech, are actually reducing their time-to-market, while simultaneously destroying their developers!
Uh yeah, the developers, who are reading this and thinking "what a dick."
Maybe he should go somewhere else.
Some whining is not justified and done by people who are in it solely for the money. Founders are a tough bunch but even we have to vent at times.
At the same time I'd submit that if you're working all night and day you're not doing it right. There are times we must put in a 16 hour day but constantly killing yourself over work hurts you in the long run. The more punishment you dole out to yourself the less productive you are and the longer you have to work to catch up.
A lot of whining would cease if people stopped trying to keep up with the other guy for the sale of keeping up. Become what you're meant to become and fuck expectations and what other people are doing. Grow to the size you need to be. Too many startups start taking money too soon and are run as if they're a huge company when all they need is a single server and a guy to write code. Premature scaling can probably account for a large portion of the whining and failure out there.
I see way too many startups trying to be something they're not and shouldn't be which leads to burn out and failure. This business is tough and a little whining is to be expected but if we quit making the mistakes I mentioned then the whining will cease to come from cry babies and will only be heard from hard working people who truly need to and should be allowed to vent.
Which one is it? I kinda need to know before I start a startup :p
Feel free to downwote for hubris (reverse psychology, hah).
Although, I will be the first to admit that every now and then I fully rest up and swear I'm going to get more sleep because I can actually see the productivity increase. That thought is often a quickly fleeting thought however....
Do you tell the candidate this during their interview?
Assuming you're not joking, of course.
Actually there is only one deadline that matters, and it's called death.
If your company is "stacked against deadlines" in order to compete, you're doing it wrong. "Fast time to market" is a rat race for marginal benefits, not a business strategy.
Google didn't get #1 because it was first on the market. Neither did Facebook, Microsoft et al.
Yes, and once people start doing insane things like working double hours and skipping sleep then the deadline is going to get worse and the finished product will be a train wreck.
I worked somewhere where there was a big push for a deadline. People were put on 12 hour days, 6 days a week for about a year. When they made their release it was one of the biggest disasters in company history (big place). The CIO looked at it and said "we're not giving anyone more time to get their projects done because we've seen that when they have more time the result is crap anyway"....