1) Stay long hours sitted, immobile. It ruins your health.
2) To provide a steady high quality output in creative disciplines (writing code qualifies) for more than a 4/5 hours a day (add to this the time to do breaks, install your updates, check news sites, fix the email client, and you'll reach the 7/8 hours per day figure).
It makes sense in a startup to work hard in crucial weeks, you can sustain that for a few days both from the point of view of your body and your productivity, but making this the rule is just plain silly.
Also, remember that a startup has a small percentage of probabilities of making you rich, so better for you to also enjoy life while working at a startup. Try hard in your working hours (but it is more a matter of doing the right things than the wrong things for a lot of hours), but enjoy life when it's 6 pm.
What's silly is that also VCs are likely to don't really get more return from you by overworking you, but there is nothing than humanity has seen more often than a silly boss that feels more comfortable if you are overworking yourself.
Try reading an article on anything you are an expert in, from any newspaper.
Newspaper journalism I believe can be forced. IMO it's like high school essay writing, you find your source and you just learn to churn. With some newspapers this can be so bad that you notice the 'filler' attempts where about 2/3 of the way through they go into "summary" mode and simply pad the ending of the article with the exact same info they had in the first 1/3.
By 'from experience' I mean I've worked as a reviewer, I've got my own personal blog (one of my pieces actually hit the front page of HN back in the 1Q of 2011 IIRC, and a few have popped up other places) and I'm now pushing through for a novel - I've had one short story published and a lot of editor comments (which is great, I've never received a form rejection letter, even from places that are notorious for them; my problem is that with a short story I see little point of struggling to edit it on the chance someone might say yes, when I might as well learn my mistake and write something else because there's always the chance a story will grab an editor and they'll say 'hell, I can fix the mistakes' - and having worked as a reviewer I trust editors to fix problems I don't know are problems)
Like the guy who posted the automated sports writer, it's not difficult to take the stats and say "Campbell scored a last minute goal winning the game" when campbell was the last person to score and it happened in the last minute of play. It's merely filtering data and rewriting a standard comment.
It's not far from news of a house fire: did the house burn down? yes/no; if no make 'devastating' comment. was people caught inside? yes/no; if yes did they survive? yes/no; if no make 'tragedy' comment; if yes did they escape? yes/no; if yes make 'valiant escape' comment / if no make 'heroic rescue' comment.
It's quite different when you have to write 200 words from a basic formula with 20 keywords, compared to writing 80,000 words from a basic formula with 20 keywords. Yes Star Wars and Harry Potter might have same basic principles (orphan, living with aunt and uncle, special powers, special connection to main antagonist). However, I'm never failed to be amused when someone says it's unoriginal or a rip off, but those same people will read article after article on their sports teams and not think it's ripped off when the articles a probably written by an intern in a coat closet switching words on a template. But simply Vader being or not being Luke's father would have made a major story diversion (IE Luke wouldn't have gone to Endor to confront his father, Vader wouldn't have turned good and killed the emperor, etc.)
As a fellow developer I'd love this to be true, however a meme / fad started during my working career in rich cultures stating that hard work isn't rewarding or is unnecessary. I question this.
My father taught me to work hard, as his father taught him, etc, and this basically states that my father was being scammed. Doesn't every generation at some point rebel against the previous generation's beliefs? Could it be that the whole work less theme (apparently based on science?) is simply rebellion?
All I know is that I plan to teach my kids that working hard for something is itself a reward. That you can't appreciate anything you didn't work for, and the harder you work for it, the more you appreciate it. I also expect this will help them survive in a hyper competitive global workplace.
Maybe if we consider maintaining physical fitness to be part of our daily work, then I'd be on board with these thoughts. I.e. 4-5 hours at a desk being creative, and 3+ hours of some sort of physical exertion.
I also follow two companies here in Sicily that I built in the past, one has six programmers.
So all the above is my "data source", that is not statistically significant.
I don't really think a programmer working 8 hours is going to be less successful of one working 12 hours per day: it is either good enough to be outstanding with the 8 hours, or will fail even with the 12 hours, since the productivity gained by experience, skills, understanding of the problem is the kind of 10x or 100x gain, while from 8 to 12 hours the difference is little (and, again, not sustainable for long time IMHO).
Startups are built by programmers, so I think the same applies to them as well, mostly.
In other words I could say that the output of a programmer correlates more strongly with the work it did to learn writing code, than the work it does writing actual code.
Another important thing is that having fun is not lost time if you want to build a startup. Recently startups are a lot more about providing an "experience" to the user, and enriching yourself in your free time can be very useful to provide something that people want.
For me it's an age thing. I put in some extremely long hours in my youth, and I think it paid off. I'm not putting in as many hours these days, but then again I feel like I'm quite a bit more productive with my time than I used to be.
I think it's the experience itself that's the differentiator, and not the fewer hours. In fact it's the experience that enables me to work fewer hours. When I was younger I really had to bang away trying many more approaches to solve a problem, and that meant longer hours.
However my father is like your father in this regard: he thought me to work long hours, and he still does even if it is 63 now. But I've the feeling that the work it does that has more to do with people, with moving from one place to the other to fix problems, and things like that, is much more "long hours compatible". The solve fact it does not sit all the day is different... In short I think that programming is exceptionally bad: too static, too focused, too stressing, too timelines, ...
I find I am most consistently productive if I work 8 - 10 hours on the weekdays, and 3 - 5 hours on the weekends. I can sustain this for several months without burnout, despite the fact that I work every day. This is more than an average work-week, but it's also not the crazyness of deadline crunch-times. It leaves enough time for workouts and some socializing. Eventually, though I need a few months where I take at least one day off during the weekends.
First, "working hard" and working the sort of insane, body-destroying hours that Arrington & co are advocating are two different things. It's good to work hard, be diligent, and get things done, but balance is essential. Arrington doesn't agree.
Second, Work for our parents and grandparents involved physical labor in some degree - ours does not. Our work takes a huge toll on the body for what seems so sedentary, and requires (I'd suspect) much more demanding mental processes, which are also extremely draining.
So yes, work hard - as did your father and his father - but don't kill yourself, and don't spend it all in what my doctor calls the Chicken position.
My day job is construction, mainly because I'm good at it. I find it every bit as stressful and mentally draining as when I've been doing sedentary work (I worked as a reviewer). The main difference is that the stress can often be used (when you have to nail in a certain position and it just happens there's a 1/8th inch steel plate on the stud, stress makes it a lot easier, and you're not stressed when the nail is driven).
I've said elsewhere here that we get highschool educated guys who can't read tape measures and who can't do basic trigonometry, and it's sad that we get guys in who've failed highschool, but you give them a pencil, a tape and a pair of tin snips and they can do trig, but they've failed math in highschool.
So given I am college educated, it is offensive (not that you personally offended me, I've received enough derogatory comments from doctors and the likes to realize that many peoples hundred-thousand dollar educations simply served to make them very stupid; that said a retired economics professor was happy as shit - he'd been writing newspaper articles for years about the shortages of 'unskilled' and 'semi-skilled' labour is crippling the economy) when people assume physical labour jobs require little mental ability.
My father taught me to work hard. He was a coder; he's taught me electrical, plumbing, concrete/floor laying, drywall, plastering, brick laying, roofing, welding, etc. He never taught me programming, because he didn't want me working for someone else my whole life (he's owned 4 businesses, all successful and profitable in his lifetime). He was happy as shit when I called to cancel my trip to see him next year, because I told him I'm looking to buy property to rent and start a property management company (I literally have all the skills necessary to turn a $90,000 piece of shit into $180,000 in the local market, meaning turning 1 $900 a month house rental into two $1200-1500 month unit rentals).
I think coding is different for two reasons - and please do excuse me, because while I've _done_ physical work, I don't do it for a living, so I'm coming at this slanted:
First, with physical work, you're doing, well, physical work. There's a correlation between physical activity and mental acuity, and, as you mention, you can take out some of your stress out on productive labor (if I do that, I have to buy a new mouse). You also have a balance between the physical and mental side - I'm not sure if there's a corresponding mental equivalent to muscle memory.
Second, you can 'outsource' some of the modeling to the actual physical object - the work you're doing has a tangible component, so you don't have to keep the entire thing in your head. That part, to me, is the most draining aspect of coding - I've gotten much better at structuring my code so I can compartmentalize most of that away, but when I'm working with older code or other people's code, I've basically got to have a very accurate representation of the entire program in mind the whole time. That gets really tiring really fast.
I think one of the other big differences, though, is that I can screw up an awful lot more than you can and get away with it - if I completely arse up a section of code, I can go back in and redo it at basically zero cost. If you arse up a floor, well, now we need to buy the raw materials for a new floor. The corollary between experts and amateurs mostly holds between construction and coding - give an idiot enough time and eventually you can have either a house or a program - the difference is he'll cost you an awful lot more trying to build the house. That breeds a level of patience and caution which, frankly, is probably better for one's outlook on life in general.
Anyway, again, sorry if I seemed to demean physical labor - I really didn't intend to. Like I said, I've seen enough experts in action to know the difference isn't in the hands.
> I'm not sure if there's a corresponding mental equivalent to muscle memory.
Have you ever driven to walmart, or work, or your girlfriends (someones) house when you was slightly distracted when driving. You don't drive dangerously, you're not swerving of being stupid like if you was drunk or distracted, you're just not thinking and you end up going the wrong way or doing the wrong thing. There's been a couple of times in the morning when I've accidentally changed the time on the microwave, because I always used to have to hit the timer button before putting in the time. Now I don't, but on autopilot I can somehow manage to find 'time' on a different keypad layout and change the time to 1:30.
I agree with the second, having a tactile object to work with seems to free up a lot of the cognitive ability for the task at hand. Although, when I was doing electrical work you often needed that mental model to know where wires were running, so stepping into someone elses job (especially when it was done wrong or poorly) was a major head-job.
> I can go back in and redo it at basically zero cost
That's why I write fiction, because as a professional career it's only loss of time that matters. Thankfully in my job (vinyl siding) my materials are fairly cheap, so waste isn't a huge concern for us (but a good worker always minimizes it, like unless you're confident you use a piece that's already garbage to make a template rather than wing it on a new sheet) because our company gets paid for our reputation and how presentable our jobs are (there's a big aesthetic difference between done and done properly).
> Like I said, I've seen enough experts in action to know the difference isn't in the hands.
That's in all jobs, I've seen my fair share of talentless doctors, etc. (At 15 I called a doctor out wrong when I self diagnosed psoriasis, the hallmark is scaly skin that pin-prick bleeds when scraped and I had it and I had psoriasis, but that doctor couldn't admit he was wrong to a 15 year old)
Note that I've never even got close to driving on the wrong side when abroad - only after I return home.
He was. It's called the "protestant work ethic".
For one, you should work smart, not hard. Second, you should work hard only if you enjoy the task or you get a benefit from working harder.
Hard work in itself doesn't mean anything.
No doubt that's right about a great many people though.
Anyways, comparing farming today to what it was 60 years ago is apples to oranges. Many farmers at the time didn't have a choice in the matter. Many had limited options and were simply lucky enough to inherit farmland. Maybe they loved it, maybe they didn't. For most, loving it wasn't as pressing a need as supporting their family.
Corn and Soy Beans account for by far the majority of crops. http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/ag101/cropmajor.html (a little outdated). Have you been to a corn / soy bean farm? Visit one and ask the farmer if he enjoys his job, and how much he makes (many are in the red). Small or large, the specific crops and tactics are pretty much identical and probably don't fit our picture of the ideal farm.
Livestock farming is even worse. Most of the farms are only briefly involved at the beginning of the animal's life then shipped off to a feedlot. "In 1967, there were one million pig farms in America; as of 2002, there were 114,000, with 80 million pigs (out of 95 million) killed each year on factory farms as of 2002" (Wikipedia). It's the same story with beef and poultry.
I finally got around to reading Omnivore's Dilemma, and it's extremely depressing to say the least. Especially when it comes to factory farming. Sustainable / local farming is a small glimmer of hope though.
We're way off topic now and I have no idea what I was trying to say that relates in any way to the original discussion...
Have you done this yourself, or are you just trying to score rhetorical points?
I have: my parents are corn/soy/livestock farmers on a small farm they own in the Midwest. Their friends and neighbors are all small operations as well. It's not a job you make much money at, it's true--imagine if all of your income depended on good weather and timing the commodities markets right! They stick with it because it's a job with independence and pride in producing something the world needs. Heritage and tradition, too: many have ancestors who have been farming in the area for a century or more.
It's easy to vilify something if you don't understand it.
More corn / soybean is about the last thing the world needs. It's also extremely dependent on oil prices due to the fact that most corn farmers requires heaps of fertilizer to produce corn / soy at such an unsustainable rate. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=that-burger...
Despite farming not being their primary job, they still make a few thousand dollars a year from sales, which I believe should classify them as a small scale farm.
Farmers don't make a lot of money at all, and they tend to get screwed a lot, this is why you always hear of the angry hillbillies taking over the city. It's kind of like musicians making a living. (Farmers are more important because they provide food, but that's not the point).
As far as industrial machines taking over the business, this is just the nature of needing a lot of food in the world. The morals of these industrial machines are questionable at times, but in the end we need food and most people aren't willing to vegetarian so I guess we are going to have to suck it up until we have better methods. Small scale farms also fill a niche market with local meat/produce and often end up trading/selling their products to other farms.
Back to the point of the main topic; your father wasn't scammed out of his life because he worked hard on a farm. I'm sure at some point he realized that he could sell the farm, move to the city, get a desk job and work less hours much like many other people did in rural areas.
I don't know your father, but I would go as far to say that he probably made a conscious decision to stay on the farm for probably a multitude of reasons. Maybe he liked the life, maybe he liked rural areas, maybe he felt a kid would be better raised on a farm doing lots of hard work, it could be anything really.
Farm work isn't smart work because it requires lot of hard hours with little benefit. Doesn't mean someone is wrong in choosing to do it because it is not only necessary for society, but some people really do like it.
When I spoke of my grandfather, I'm referring to grass farming. Corn / soy / industrial livestock farming has almost nothing in common with grass farming so let's completely throw them out for the sake of this topic and reword my statement to this; "My grass farming ancestors believed in working hard and passed this belief onto their children. Their work ethic probably had more to do with what was necessary to survive than their religious beliefs (protestant or otherwise)".
This is a very good lesson to learn. Make sure you take it to heart.
The thing to know, is: WHO are you working hard for? If the answer isn't yourself, then you have the wrong answer. Spending your effort and time working hard for the benefit of someone else is being scammed.
I have a motorised desk (essentially the GeekDesk v2) and shift two or three times a day from sitting to standing to standing while leaning on a sitting stool (which you can do even if you don't have a robo-desk). Plus I move around frequently (kitchen, bathroom, fetch water, etc) and - don't knock it till you've tried it - have a dartboard for when I'm taking screen breaks.
& smoke! Anyone dares to admit?
i like this site: http://www.ismikearringtonadick.com/
"I hope this signals the end ..."
"He's no longer..."
Timing was definitely implied.
My point here is strictly about fair argumentation, not about the merits of the debate. Whether right or wrong on the merits, I think the author takes an unfair shot in the way he makes his points here. We all have ideas and core beliefs, even those who are VCs. We all should be free to express them without being accused of nefarious motives.
The american dream is "designed to help a small predatory class dominate a larger prey class" - http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2011/11/16/the-evolution-of-the-am...
Weaving myths to manipulate underlings to your advantage is a tradition old as time.
jwz's advice is extremely valid, it doesn't matter if it's about VCs or vending machines. You have to work hard, but you also have to work smart and be wary that there is always someone waiting to profit off of what you built, he never said it's always the VC.
Quotes which were already removed from their full context, taken further out of context by Arrington, with a shallow, incomplete understanding of the long-term consequences of the events being recounted.
Arrington has a Bachelor's in economics and a law degree, until 1999 he was a securities lawyer. He was still in law school when jwz was actually doing useful things and wrote those diary entries.
Arrington has never been an engineer of any kind. He has no concept of the kind of stress placed on engineers, little grasp of the work environments he wants people to put up with, and as a VC, has a massive conflict of interest.
Invoking a respected name through excerpts of a document that offered only a narrow, fuzzy window into what jwz went through in order to lure young hackers to an inevitable burnout for a likely reward of zilch is just scummy, and it is in no way unfair to call Arrington on his BS.
Further, the fact that you don't include Arrington giving advice that is quite probably not in the targeted recipients' best interests in order to advance the interests of both himself in particular and vcs in general as a "nefarious motive" is stupid.
I really don't think name calling is necessary. I mostly try to read HN without reading names, but some people, like grellas, earn a reputation by repeatedly making insightful comments. Plus, I don't think any of us here deserve to have our opinions called "stupid." You've been here a bit longer than I have, so I know I don't have to remind you, but in case others are reading, let's try to be slightly more civil.
As an aside, this is the second post I've made in as many days defending the comments of HN regulars. It almost sounds like I'm trying to appeal to the local "cool kids" for some strange reason, but in reality I just don't want to see some of HN's valuable contributors chased off by lowering the level of discourse when things get tense.
This exchange between Arrington and jwz strikes at the heart of the mythos that drives the HN community, so I realize things can get heated. As a startup founder myself it made me think carefully about some of my goals. Let's not allow that to lower our standards.
Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding
its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured
by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance
is just as good as your knowledge.
2 - some opinions are stupid
3 - This has nothing to do w/ standards or whose side I'm on, except that running around looking after
4 - grellas believes everyone should be free to express his or her core beliefs "without being accused of nefarious motives". Sorry, bs. Some people are looking out for number one, are in a position to exploit others, and should be called on it.
5 - I have a sincerely held belief you all owe me $10k. Each. See? Stupid.
Also, some people -- and I don't know Arrington -- have a deep conviction in nothing more than whatever gets them ahead. Being sincerely self serving shouldn't get you a pass.
And I don't think a whole paragraph of riding your high horse is necessary for what could have been a quick "lets keep it above board" tacked onto the end of a post.
"If $3 million a year seems high, remember that we're talking about the limit case: the case where you not only have zero leisure time but indeed work so hard that you endanger your health."
And his upper limit for hours worked was 2x that of a corporate employee. Taken literally, this could be 80 hours per week, or 16 hour days. PG is not advocating this lifestyle in his essay. He's saying that it's theoretically possible but at the cost of your good health. Arrington says to hell with your health: quit the whining and work through the pain. This is not an upper bound but in fact an average that he's trying to push.
That's why I despise the Arrington article but don't take issue with PG's.
"Bill Gates is a smart, determined, and hardworking man, but you need more than that to make as much money as he has. You also need to be very lucky."
Or perhaps PG thinks his personal success is based purely off his own brilliance with no helpful outside factors needed (i.e. competitor blunders, etc)? :)
He doesn't think that. Though he claims to have made good decisions and benefited from competitor blunders, he frequently refers to incidents that nearly sank the company, and acknowledges the good fortune that saved them and helped them to their very happy exit.
Where would Microsoft's shrinkwrap sales strategy have been without legal advice?
Edit: In 1980, she discussed with John Opel, a fellow committee member who was the chairman of the International Business Machines Corporation," her son's company. "Mr. Opel, by some accounts, mentioned Mrs. Gates to other I.B.M. executives. A few weeks later, I.B.M. took a chance by hiring Microsoft, then a small software firm, to develop an operating system for its first personal computer." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Maxwell_Gates
The first is probably true, I agree atleast. Your second point about them not being heavy handed because they knew Bill's mother I just can't see having any shred of truth.
IBM also made a sweetheart deal with Intel with no mother's involved.
The reason they made those deals has been stated many times over.
IBM was in a huge rush to ship and they needed an OS and CPU in a very bad way. They made those deals because that's what allowed them to ship.
Leverage analogy: think schwerpunkt in blitzkrieg. If you amass all your tanks on one sector of the front and crush the opposing line there, then you will have more of an impact than if you spread the same force out over a wider area.
There doesn't seem to be an easy way out of this career problem.
There seems to be a problem with whatever you will do.
I imagine the success chance would go up quite a bit if one does basic things like being persistant and reading up on the wisdom of others.
If this happens with 2 or 3 start ups you would have lost a lot of money and time.
not sure if that's good or bad
I am not advocating this!
I think if you are passionate about your work and work 8 hours a day (5 days a week) at full capacity you are productive enough. I can work more for one or two weeks if necessary (with the adrenalin boost stemming from a near by deadline) but not for much longer.
The first place I'd worked where we launched on schedule with no overtime worked, with all of the features that business wanted for the big 1.0 (well, web-app 1.0... Really just a euphemism here).
My point is that while Arrington goes on about working insane hours, everyone always seems to overlook how much time in the office isn't actually productive for the product. I've been at places where people "worked" 16 hour days, at least 6 of which were spent playing Starcraft LAN games.
Sleeping under your desk with .05% equity? Probably a bad investment.
Sleeping under your desk for 45% equity? Well, roll the dice. At least you will get paid if it works.
Another one who should get some flack is Thiel.
He may just be the worst, suggesting kids should forgo a university education and going so far as to actually debate the "issue" whether an education is "worth it".
For some of these VC to make money, they have no need to see university degrees.
But they have their own interests in mind. And, lo and behold, most of them have university degrees.
He's a hardcore objectivist libertarian. He most certainly doesn't care the least bit about student loan debts.
But this is kind of an ad hominem. He's also correct.
But is that a real problem? The statistics I've seen show that the proportion of students with more than $100,000 in debt is tiny. Most students graduate with ~$25,000 in debt. At that debt level, a college education is still a no-brainer.
I'd be willing to argue that if you've managed to rack up $200,000 in debt financing a college education, you've either 1) had extraordinarily bad luck or 2) made extraordinarily poor choices. Neither case is an indictment of the system at large.
At that debt level, a college education is still a no-brainer.
jwz is right: be alert to the agendas of those who would influence you.
There is no relation between the discord between the self interest of a VC and a startup employee on the one hand, and the possibility that Thiel is giving bad advice to people who he has no financial interest in.
And honestly, is a university education not being worth it such an evil idea? Many of the best and brightest are autodidacts. From Ben Franklin to Thomas Edison to Bill Gates. Is it so horrible for Thiel to subsidize self-teachers?
In fact, my guess is that some people actually learn better on their own or outside of a university environment. Thiel is providing an innovative alternative to elite universities. He's very experimental in his philanthropy, so let's just see where this goes before giving him "flack."
There are some fields where what really matters is talent and practical experience, not book learning. A lot of the best techies I know either have no degree or have it in something unrelated. The same is true of entrepreneurs and musicians, and probably other fields.
Consider also the absurdly rising cost of education:
"Median household income has grown by a factor of 6.5 in the past 40 years, but the cost of attending a state college has increased by a factor of 15 for in-state students and 24 for out-of-state students. The cost of attending a private college has increased by a factor of more than 13." -- http://www.economist.com/node/16960438
It's simple economics that if the cost of a good keeps increasing, it eventually won't be worth it for some purposes. It's not crazy to ask whether for certain people it's really worth it now. If your aim is entrepreneurship, you might be better off spending $150k and 4 years on starting businesses and learning on your own rather than giving that to Harvard.
Also, um, not everyone is due to be an entrepreneur. Outside of the Twitter Bootstrap startup world, the entrepreneurs need well-educated professionals to do the work, and will pay for talent.
So he's not a programmer. There are non-programmers that also work hard, you know.
He publishes a blog to attempt to persuade an audience of those who can.
Before the blog, he worked with a company selling dropping domain names.
Again, he wrote no code.
nice definition of "under the desk"
So "under the desk" was pretty close to reality - he could pretty much reach his desk from his bed.
Paul worked very hard to grow Viaweb for several years, and eventually guided Viaweb to a lucrative exit via Yahoo.
Arrington worked very hard to grow TechCrunch for several years, and eventually guided it to a lucrative exit via AOL.
The most common linking factor I can see between the HN poster and PG is entrepreneurial- and tech-focus. Whats so "one of us" about that? Nothing. Or is it the "hacker" group, that weird banner created when pg massaged a term with a loose meaning and appealing connotation into the something divorced from its original meaning that people now want to identify as?
We're on this website playing in his playground, one built to serve the needs of YC with advertizing, finding talent, and indoctrination. That's it; everything else is ancillary.
This is just gold.
If you don't like the fact that a VC has the potential to make more money than you, the solution is to not take investment from one, not to ignore them after they take investment.
Also remember that yes, they're not putting in a lot of work to make the money - but you aren't putting in a lot of money that you might lose, which they did.
I'm not arguing for or against working crazy hours, just against the idea that you should be scared of any suggestion from a VC.
VCs make money win or lose. Limited partners actually have capital risk.
People know this, right?
The fee structure of a VC firm is similar to that of a hedge fund: they take a management fee (based on the committed fund size) and a performance fee (based on the profits, if any, from investing). Typical numbers are 2% annually and 20%, respectively.
If a VC fund invests $100 million in a company and, after four years, the company goes kablooey, that actually cost the LPs about $110 million or so. The VCs made $10 million.
Obviously advice from a VC is given selfishly, as you doing well means he does well, but for them to do well (i.e. get the performance fee), that will mean that you have done well too.
option 1: your company can be sold today for $75m.
option 2: you can try for $1,000m or zero, with an 85% chance that you'll fail.
The VC is likely to prefer option 2, whereas if you aren't already rich, you'd likely prefer option 1.
Many a VC funded company has died because the VCs needed you to make a ton of money very quickly, or die trying, in order for their model to work. When considering VC investment, one really needs to be certain that their business needs align closely with your own (and are likely to continue in alignment) if you want to avoid heartbreak.
IMO the larger divergence of interest is investment of time. Financial risks can be diversified or hedged, but there is no protection against lost time.
VC raises a $100m fund that is expected to last for 10 years. They charge a 2%/yr management fee, for their work as investors. Then, they also keep 20% of the gains from their investments.
So if the fund operates for 10 years and exits for $400m, my understanding is that they'd take $20m for managing the fund, plus $60m "carried interest", and return the rest to the limited parters (the investors whose money was actually at risk).
If the fund operates for 10 years and the companies sell for a combined total of $50m, they still charge the $20m management fee, and the investors have $30m returned to them.
Thus, VCs themselves have very limited downside.
I guess if the VC had a track record from which to estimate expected returns, it could be a big deal, but no one has a track record, because these business cycles are so short.
If were a multi-millionaire, why wouldn't I say "Hey Mr. VC, if you think you can turn $100M into $400M, why don't you borrow it from me and pay 10% interest?"
Let’s say I invest a million bucks in my local VC fund, and its investments earn back an annualized 15%/year over ten years. My million bucks has turned in to a little over four million. After paying the fees, I would still be about a million dollars ahead of someone who got a 10% return from a regular mutual fund.
To me, the crazier part is the 2%.
EDIT: Sorry for this lame answer, I wasn't reading the question right. The real answer is that the people working with VC are managing someone else's money (the limited partners' money). They themselves get a salary which is a percentage of the amount of money the manage, only sometimes with a bonus correlating to how well they are doing their job.
First, the goal of entrepreneurs is not just to make money. Unlike most VCs and all of their LPs.
Interests of VCs and entrepreneurs differ in a number of other ways. A key one being that VCs have a whole portfolio and are hits-driven, while entrepreneurs have exactly one company. That means VCs have an incentive to push for giant hits, even at with an increased risk of failure. That makes VCs more money, but means you're much more likely to be, e.g., that guy who had to shut down everything because you expanded too fast.
Not necessarily. Especially when talking about funding, the VCs are NOT out to help you or your business. They are out to make money. Sometimes those goals can coincide, but not often.
And seriously, the rest of that post is just an excuse for their bullshit. They have money. So fucking what? Why should that enable them to take most of the company, when it was your hard work that actually made it successful? I understand they need a return, but there is no reason why they should get the lion's share of the reward.
You'd be surprised...
And I'd rather be doing that for myself on a side project or in the start-up lottery or within my own business than for someone else. If that isn't possible, then even for someone up the chain. If someone else (VC, client of mine, landlord, etc) also profits from this endeavour, so be it.
Sometimes you have to know the lows to fully appreciate the highs.
Further to that, I tend to enjoy weeks of fulfilling hard work with those glimpses of recreation more than I do the ones where I'm procrastinating, spinning my wheels or at a loss for something I can be bothered doing that day. Hard work, or hard holiday - that half-arsed stuff in the middle rarely satisfies.
Startups are like going to Hollywood. Your goal might be to become as successful as Clooney, but that's not likely to work out. Still, if you're talented & dedicated, you can make a living in this industry and enjoy it.
I've been working for startups for the past 12 years. I won't be a millionaire even if my current company sells for $.5b - there are preferred stock, dilutions down the road, taxes etc. But I hope to be in startups for the rest of my career, simply because it's fun to create something from scratch, work in a small company with relatively little office politics etc.
It's not fun to sleep under a desk, though, or consistently work 12 hours/day. If your boss expects you to do that, he's a poor manager. If your VC tells you to do it, he's trying to exploit you, as JWZ correctly points out.
This year I have worked on more side projects than I can handle, I've worked through the night and had brutal weeks at my own business, I've done a lot of socialising and I've spent almost three months of the year overseas on holiday.
I hope to work harder and holiday more in 2012. That's not eating into what I value in life, I hope it will eat into those mindless hours on Xbox, checking Hacker News for the fourth time in 20 minutes, seeing if anything's been added to the fridge since my last check an hour ago, thinking about how I really should get the garden in order but not actually doing it, sitting through a TV show I don't really care for, etc.
I am the pot calling the kettle black here, but I'd like to point out that working in software for 12 years (or 15 or 20), whether for startups or not, would give most people a shot at being a millionaire, if that goal is chosen, tracked and executed on, and it has nothing to do with the exit lottery. The best use of money, after necessities and safety, is to make more money.
There's been a lot of discussions here on HN, that should give you some ideas (not advice).
I understand you can invest in New York City taxi medallions, which have done nothing but go up in value. But that's not advice, just pointing out how wide your choices are.
Maybe, rather than give advice, authors should do more of simply describing their experiences, and let the readers make inferences for themselves.
Edit. Deleted the first word (Amen). Another growing practice, and one that I am guilty of in this case, is the overzealous use of showy phrases solely to draw attention.
Yeah, amen for that. I also have at least 3 personal projects to which I dedicate as much time as possible. I don't want nor expect to make any money out of them, and when one of my co-workers asked me why didn't I spend my free-time on freelancing to gain even more money (like he does) I answered that what I was doing made me feel good and that was that :)
Other people profiting off your work is fine. But if you did the bulk of the work, why shouldn't you get the bulk of the reward? Why should some VC doucebag get the most of the company simply because they had money?
Seven heart surgeries. High blood pressure. Damaged kidneys. Removal of an inner ear (from flying while ill and not getting to a doc in some place or another).
Take care of your body, blokes. It's the only thing keeping your brain intact. The cummulative effect of stress over a number of years is to attempt to kill you.
I have done 3 startups so far (1 VC funded, 2 bootstrapped) and I work very hard because I love it BUT I never ever work at the expense of the time with my kids and anyone saying you have to give up your life to find success in the startup world is just misleading in a big way. There are tons of examples of highly successful people across many industries who have made a fortune without giving up their lives. And its wise to look beyond such myths which are made to seem like the "norm" sometimes.
But Arrington and Zawinski aren't talking about founders and their startups. They're talking about working too hard on somebody else's startup. Totally different thing.
And the whole discussion definitely applies to founder and their startups too, imo. The issues are the same and so are the trade-offs. Would you give you your life for your startup but not for anyone else'?
jwz talked about working hard and enriching others. That's not an issue if it's your own startup.
Exceedingly few VC-funded businesses end up with founders holding on to massive stakes all the way through to an acquisition or IPO. That is the tradeoff you make whenever you take VC money: You hope you accelerate your growth enough to more than offset the piece you give away. That is also why it is often more financially attractive for regular employees to join a VC funded startup: the growth rates are often similarly faster (but you often fail faster too, and more spectacularly; though failing faster is not necessarily a bad thing if you're first going to fail)
But, after reading this, I remembered this PG essay from a few years ago.
"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." - http://paulgraham.com/wealth.html
But I believe it doesn't speak about "giving up your life" to do the startup. There is a big difference, I feel, between "low intensity work" and "working hard and smart" and "working hard and smart and giving up everything else".
And that "giving up your life" has to be explained with examples: cancel your long due family vacation because the a sales VP wants you to go to a customer site without having a solid reason, camp at a customer location in the carribean until you get a PO because thet want you to make it happen (though you know camping there is going to do nothing). Postpone a surgery because your travel schedule doesn't allow it. A lot of these can be clearly unreasonable which is why it sucks to do a blanket statement.
And investors and business owners like smart work but I believe they eventually like hard work also - they just don't want you to work smart and not work more because you worked smart. They want you to work smart and work even more for the time you saved by working smart. I DO NOT want to generalize this but as people building businesses we are all (including myself) are too focused on growing and more of everything. And sometimes we and everyone with us loose a lot of what won't come back - youth, family time and more. I have been guilty of this myself as a founder and I remind myself to refrain from this as much as I can.
Eventually its a personal decision though. Do what you think is right for yourself and learn from your "own" experiences.
Startups, hard? Yes. We ALL know this. Are his opinions skewed towards his agenda? Also yes. There is no hiding the fact that he's in the money. The problem is that the "thought-leader" portion of his rant was lacking. And it's a bit of unfair baseball to bring up a random blog post from some guy nearly 20 years ago. My bets are that he didn't even bother doing follow up on this guy after the fact.
just type "g !read"
and it saves history so next time it's just "g !" !
Money makes money. An example is Kim Kardasian. What does she produce? Nothing. Does she actually make anything better than others? No. She has money. Using that money she was able to be part of a TV show, which she used as an oportunity to make herself a character people liked, used that to up-sell whatever crap she made, used that to make shittons of cash on her wedding.
How is that relevant?
Well, same happens here. If you have money, you can invest, money that is much needed for business to get off the ground. Now you may argue that "don't get investment money, start small, then make a bigger business when you can affort it" which is actually quite valid. However if that is not what you want then you are basically asking people for money. They made the money, and are reaping the benefits of that money.
So basically you get rich, they get rich. You did the work though. However once you get rich, you can now make the bigger business that you wanted to, this time bootstrapped.
Isn't this more or less the case for any profits-go-to-owners business model? Or rather, any business model where employees are viewed as calculated costs and not owners worthy of a commiserate portion of the profit?
I've often wondered how a different ownership model would work for a company. One where the owners still make more money than the VPs, who still make more money than the engineers, who still make more money than the techs, who still make more money than the CSRs, who still make more money than the cleaning staff, but everyone is seeing a salary that is at least XX.X percent higher than it was before. Or perhaps a function of CPI, per Capita GDP, and a few other variables. Honestly, company ownership just seems like one big game of who can grab the most power in a given time metric. Rather than money being a means to an end, it is the end. But that's just my inexperienced, undereducated take on the whole thing thus far.
Then again, my salary was somewhat below market rates, and the VCs would have collected a management fee in proportion to what they invested, so maybe the VCs did come out ahead.
...I'm an idiot. Today I learned how to spell commensurate!
Almost every industry out there manages to make good profits without their employees having to give up their lives.
I suppose I think there might be a model out there that better reflects ownership and the concepts of who earned what. More than anything, I don't believe the owner "earns" all of the profits of a company. The [owner + every last other employee in the organization] "earned" the profits. But while every other employee is more or less capped in their earnings, the owner gets the profit.
I understand the concept: take on a big risk, be rewarded for said risk with big gains. I suppose I just don't think anyone should be rewarded for winning a lottery of circumstance. If I owned a company, I don't think I'd see myself as having "earned" tens of millions of dollars and I don't think I'd be OK with taking home millions while the hundreds of staff beneath me did all of the brute work.
But then again, I've never owned a company. Maybe if I did I'd feel a whole lot differently about the whole thing.
Medicine and law being two exceptions.
I suspect the reason for this is because human capital makes the payoff for additional hours worked non-linear. One cashier working 80 hours a week should be just about as productive as two cashiers working 40 hours a week (a bit more even, because of fatigue). However, one engineer working 80 hours a week is significantly more productive than two engineers working 40 hours a week, because of the overhead required to get the second engineer up to speed and then the communication delays needed to make sure any information makes its way to both engineers.
Note that these professions are paid more as a result, too, because they're not fungible laborers. If that one engineer quits, you are a lot more hosed than if one of your cashiers quits.
The effect of both of this is that professional jobs tend to work longer hours, both because the worker himself is more productive doing so, and because they reap a greater percentage of the rewards for doing so. They have the option of deliberately short-circuiting these incentives, by eg. quitting and traveling the world for a year using savings. I know folks who've done this, and greatly enjoyed it. But it runs counter to societal expectations, so many don't.
Disagree! An engineer working 80 hours a week will make worse decisions, understand things more slowly, get more confused by bugs, and make poorer decisions overall. The net productivity will be lower.
Some of the best programmers I know turn into terrible programmers after one long day. If you make that long day Friday, you might be able to squeeze 45 high-quality hours out of them in a week.
Only for short periods of time.
Every single piece of research on working hours for knowledge workers show that longer periods of overtime decrease productivity. These people work longer hours because the people that pay them are unable to measure productivity properly and instead pay them by hours worked. Good for your salary. Crap for your company's productivity.
I suspect there's an equilibrium point where the gains of human capital are offset by the losses of fatigue. My point is that you get declining efficiency in both directions; if you try to speed up work by adding more people, you incur costs in communication & learning overhead.
Anyone working an 80 week is absolutely less productive than two people working 40 hour weeks, even taking "communication overhead" into account.
Similar in medicine doctors (hospitalists in particular) will work 12 hour shifts because of "continuity of care" which is better for the patient - to not be passed between two doctors.
Not necessarily. There are plenty of businesses where the principal owners are working just as hard as the "regular" employees, and don't just sit in on a board meeting once a month.
The biggest problem with the model is financing. You need capital to build something big, and the easiest way to raise a lot of capital is to sell partial ownership of your company.
Also, it's not that jwz doesn't know the dude, it's that jwz just doesn't give a fuck.
Just asked jwz, turns out he really doesn't know the guy.
As far as the nightclub thing...it could have been just a transaction from jwz's perspective.
If I get more done in an hour than you do, should I continue to work as many hours as physically possible just to get ahead? What if the experience I've gained over a decade of doing this allows me to do twice the work that you do in an hour?
Simply working more hours is just a race to the bottom. There's nothing there. In fact I'd argue that it stifles the mind from seeing the bigger picture. A good mind built for solving problems doesn't try to exhaust itself with repetitive, menial tasks. You may work 16 hours a day but I argue that you will get less and less done per hour. And in the end whether you get rich or not all you'll have to show for it is diabetes, some form of erectile dysfunction (if you happen to have those bits), coronary disease, and an amphetamine addiction.
Instead cultivate your mind and aim higher.
Perseverance does pay off. That should be the lessons of your fathers/mentors/etc who "worked hard."
This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when George Castanza leaves his car at work so his boss thinks he's always there.
We need to stop measuring productivity by hours worked. Instead, productivity should be about finishing what you set out to do. If that only takes 4 hours, GO HOME. Plan the next day. Get some rest. Your output will be higher, and you'll be healthier and happier.
So I'm not supposed to work hard and get rich because as a side effect that some one else also is?
My dad is a cab driver. He really works his life off. Under absolutely dismal financial conditions he and may mom have given their whole lives to bring us out of poverty. They got me and my sister decent education. They did what every poor family in India does. They worked hard, saved money, invested it and got their kids good education so that we could now stand on our own legs.
He still pushes a 12-16 hours schedule everyday. You know what? Compared to most of his cab driver peers we are like 1000x better. He has achieved what none of them have ever or will ever achieved.
He pays a lot of commission to the travel office which gives him rentals. And sure they are getting rich too. He is using them and they are using him. That's how it all works. But he would not exist without them and vice versa.
He can of course sit back at home, he is old too(like he is nearing 65) and tell the travel office is getting rich because of his work so he won't go to work. But, he doesn't do that. He works hard for everything he has every earned.
Of course most of his friends and peers call him merely lucky. And that he is also a fool to be working hard not smart.
I really want people to define smart work. Its like people try to say there is some magical way to produce wealth and value out of nothing and that only smart alecs are capable of that.
Likewise, with your dad, what's laudable is the result. What's not laudable is the process. I'm sure that your dad would have jumped at the opportunity to make the same amount of money for fewer hours worked every day.
In life, you don't get credit for trying. You get credits for results. Yes, working hard is necessary. It's not sufficient, though. You need a lot of luck to strike it rich like jwz did. That's the point he's trying to make. Sometimes, you work 16, 20 hour days, and you just go home bankrupt because the market just isn't there, the investors aren't willing to believe, and the customers don't give a damn. Then what do you have? You've ruined your health, you've alienated your family, you've isolated yourself for what? A dream. An illusion.
I'm not trying to take anything away from your dad. Those 16 hour days had value. But let's not pretend that there was zero luck involved. What if the travel agency hadn't given him rentals? What if his taxi had broken down and he'd been forced into debt in order to secure repairs? What if he'd come down with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or any number of ailments that could have ended his career? All those things (and many many more) would have prevented him from being able to provide you with that college education.
So yeah, definitely celebrate hard work. But don't pretend that pure hard work and saving money gives you the ability to stand on your own two legs. Those are the prerequisites, but there's a whole lot of other things that have to go right for everything to turn out well.
Yet he doesn't give up. That's what it really boils down to. Diseases are a part of life. You have to learn to live beyond and with them. He was lucky that every time he got an opportunity he used it, which opened up more opportunities. And he worked on those opportunities.
And by the way, No one that truly got rich and sustained his riches for a long time ever did it without working hard. The fact that not every body can work hard. The fact that most consider hard work 'not worth it'. The fact that most don't work hard is what has what has given hardworking people edge throughout history. And makes them a minority.
But I agree, Hard work may not always lead to results. But it increases your chances of success.
I consider my dad a personal hero because he demonstrated what focus and true hard work can achieve over time. Had he settled down for mediocrity like everybody else, he would be nothing more than a cab driver to me.
EDIT: Common folks why would you downvote this? Is not giving up beyond all odds, so bad?
These coders arent paid extra for all nighters, they aren't compensated for losing relationships, they aren't covered when they burnout, all for a realistically very slim chance of striking it rich.
We are quickly assimilating in to normal crowd. We may even be judged by the same metrics they are.
We are all writing software to solve business problems. We are not writing software for Software innovation.
Unless you are doing something special. Most software today is written in IDE's. You don't have to remember syntax at all these days. The IDE will do it for you. It knows what libraries you want, it knows how many exceptions your code can run into. It knows how to compile, build and package your code. I can give you your code coverage. It can even do documentation for you. There is hardly anything IDE's can't do these days.
All you need is a little semantic awareness. And there are solutions to nearly every problem you are likely to run into a software shop. There are libraries, API's and frameworks that have understood and defined your problems as a generic case and solved them. There are forums to help you out on edge cases.
All you do these days is know a solution to a generic pattern of problems. You fundamentally pull out those logical solutions from your brain and parameterize them for the solution need at hand. And remaining is simply IDE play.
Very little or really a non quantifiable of highly intellectual work is happening in business based software shops today. Google, Facebook are exceptions, not the normal.
And this isn't surprising. We need armies of programmers to do all the bulk of the business job out there. If you are still thinking that as a software guy you are going to work with math theorems, then you have got it wrong.
Given all these, my success depends on only two things. How much aware of the reusable solutions. How quickly and how many problems can I solve using them. Which is productivity.
This is drag and drop programming demystified.
Wow, I'm glad I do more interesting work than that drek.
No one is getting rich off your father's efforts to a massively disproportionate degree. That is not the case for the people JWZ is speaking to.
What in his comment gives you the impression that he is claiming that luck did not play a role?
In other words, I've got the impression that OP thinks that life is fair - that if you work hard, you're guaranteed to get ahead. I'm arguing the opposite. Sometimes you do everything right and it all goes to hell anyway, due to forces outside your control.
To me, working "smarter" has always been about recognizing where the "leverage" is in your business and taking advantage of it.
At the end of the day, there are some businesses that simply don't have an obvious or easy "leverage" point. Lawyers and dentists and doctors can only bill so many hours in the day. They are fundamentally limited in their earning potential by the clock. The "leverage" point becomes a practice, where they build a book of business and take off the top from the billing hours of employees.
A taxi driver has very little "leverage" to speak of.
Software, on the other hand, has an incredible amount of leverage: distribution is cheap; the marginal cost of customer acquisition and maintenance tends to be much, much lower than other businesses; initial capital costs are much lower than other businesses. That's why you get rags-to-riches stories in software more than other places: home-runs are cheaper to swing for.
In the taxi-driver business, it is hard to define "smarter." Points of leverage probably include discovering the optimal locations and times for maximize fares-per-hour. Ultimately, you're bound by the number of hours in the day, and that is a tough business to leverage. When there is no leverage, it is tough to work smarter; often, you have to resort to working harder.
Think about Coca-Cola. What is the core asset? Certainly they have developed a brand, but they protect their formula as trade-secret. Coke could theoretically be run as a pretty small organization, maybe just an IP holding company, and leverage bottling and distribution companies to take advantage of their already existing infrastructure. To me, that is working "smarter." That is what a lot of software companies do. Look at all the "bottlers" and "distributors" that are coming out of the wood-work for software. For a start-up, I can pretty much out-source (from open-source, nonetheless) the majority of my components, IT infrastructure, and IT maintenance. That is leverage. That is working "smarter."
I get your point. And I definitely agree, we enjoy a position where we can use our 'time' non linearly to make money. I guess this is what you call leverage.
But how much 'time'? listen, unless I'm working on a new algorithm or something. These days I'm nothing more than a Henry Ford era factory guy. Eclipse does the auto complete for me. There are libraries and API's that have solved most of my problems. There are forums that have answers to questions I don't know. There are design patters that handle architecture use cases.
I don't write code. These days I assemble logical parameterizable templates from my brain, which translate to syntax on Eclipse, which again gets auto completed. We really are in drap and drop era.
Considering all this, winning is boiling down to productivity not intelligence.
I am helpless, the only way I can win as day to day programmer is to do more work in available time.
VCs don't invest in a company. They invest in a functioning system. They invest in individuals whom they trust to build and maintain a functioning system. The nature of the system is largely irrelevant to them, as long as it produces what they desire: money, prestige among peers, hope, relief from boredom, etc.
Understanding a system is essential to working smart, but even more essential is having the balls to exploit and manipulate the system - to add value to them system and to remove waste and inefficiency from the system. Functioning systems are often highly inert; they resist change. That's why I say you need balls to change it.
Your father sits in a cab all day driving people from point to point. He functions in a transportation system. But what did he do to exploit it? Maybe he didn't have the balls to exploit a system he understood. However, you can bet he hopes that, one day, you will.
VC's aren't exploiting the system. They bet their money on stuff which they can loose. How many of such bets turn out to be successful. You work hard on your one start up. Remember they are betting on many start up's at one time.
That risk deserves some reward. Eventually considering the research and decisions they need to take over time to stay alive. VC's need to work hard too.
When they make 100x more than you in an IPO, they are basically getting compensated only as much you because they lost money somewhere else.
They may get 100x more from your start up but remember they are loosing elsewhere. So in principle you both earn the same.
VCs are exploiting a system. In fact, that is their sole purpose. If they win more than they lose, they continue to be VCs, otherwise they slip into irrelevance and are put out to pasture as a senior executive at some stagnant, but stable company.
Everybody here, is for profits. That's more of goes without saying kind of thing.
My definition of “smart work” is work that simultaneously earns income and widens the moat between you and your competitors by extending your skillset in areas of demand.
With every respect for your father’s impressive work-ethic, if you worked as hard as he did to become, say, an expert geophysicist specialising in deep-sea oil extraction, where do you think your income would be at the same point of your life with the same amount of work effort applied? That’s the difference between “hard” and “smart” work.
My initial investment is college education and daily learnings.
In order to make money/profit you need to apply seed investment and then work over it in time. Either way you will end up working. Its the seed investment that makes the difference here.
In order to work in the petrochemical industry, you really need to account for what seed investment got you there. Once that is in place. Its back to your plain old hard work to grow from there.
It impossible to generate value without working for it.
This is hard to do as a taxi driver. It's hard to do in IT too when you pick the wrong technology stack to specialize in (eg. Flash or VB6) and have to start again back in the pack at some point.
edit - just to expand a little. In my experience, most people get to a point in their career where they think their 'moat' is wide enough. They stop learning or extending their skillset. Now it's important to note that this doesn't necessarily mean they've stopped working hard. They might be pulling 80+ hour weeks. But if it's the same work they've done before, their career is now a cash-cow. In IT this is especially dangerous because the industry evolves so fast, that you can be overtaken by skilled competitors using more efficient technologies.
Way to not read the article. That's not what's being said at all. Nothing wrong with working hard, however, the person that should reap the primary benefit of that hard work should be YOU, not some VC or an employer. Furthermore, hard work does NOT mean spending every waking minute slaving away at something.
Your dad understands the "pecking order"and so do you. This is a good trait but not understood by everyone. You're lucky he has instilled this in you. Many people in this country don't understand this unfortunately and have a loser attitude.
Lets say a kid works hard in his college days and gets to be a dentist or a lawyer or somebody like that. Lets say another kid in similar circumstances chooses not to work that hard or makes a bad judgement and ends up in a not so rewarding area- rank and file job. It is totally fathomable that the dentist kid could end up making twice as much by working half as hard as the rank and file kid for the rest of their lives.
All in all, the idea that working harder will reward you in the future seem fair or karmic. The real world probably is not that simple. I would think there are many other equally important factors like opportunities, luck, judgement etc.
Sometimes it makes sense to pull overnighters and sometimes it simply burns a coder out and drives him to poor productivity and an infectious bad attitude. It takes an expert to know the difference.
(PS: if you feel inclined to downvote, cool -- but I would like to know the reason. Maybe you can reply and tell me why you seem to disagree.)
LOL Mike. Our company gets things done without having to live like slaves.
There is a reason http://qbix.com/about has pictures of all of us in nature. It’s subtle but it all fits together with our company’s vision. We want to have fun and enjoy LIVING LIFE as we enjoy creating the tools that improve other people’s lives.
Yes, we work hard. And we create things together. But with the internet, 3G, and Wifi we are able to work from anywhere! This is more than can be said for any other industry, and we are lucky to be around in this time when we can travel and still get things done. Not only that, but the geographical constraints are now loosened. Not too long ago you could only choose among engineers that live nearby. Today you can hire engineers that do great work even if they live halfway around the world, and you can connect over the internet, Skype, and a host of other tools that just work.
We are building more of these tools. We believe in liberating people from their computers and focusing on just living their lives and getting things done. We love freedom. We want it for others, and we want it for ourselves.
It takes a careful system and a focus on process, but it can be done. With the right tools, the right guidelines and habits, we can be productive without sleeping under desks.
After all, you have one life, and work is a part of it. We have a motto: people live lives, companies create products.
Think of it this way ... the guys at 37signals always have their own vision and culture that they are pushing. We have the culture of freedom, enjoying life, getting things done, and making smart tools that empower people to get things done better, have control over their data and liberate them from having to waste their time on the computer. We are proud to be a company that is able to take advantage of the latest opportunity that is out there ... to get work done without all the nonsense, and to still have time to enjoy our lives!
- Having no money is liberating because otherwise you are always battling internally about whether you should buy something or not
- Being in prison is liberating because otherwise you are always battling internally about what to do with your life
That's when you know you love your work.
But anyway -- I mean it when I say: people live lives, companies create products. A person can devote only 10-20 hours and still be productive. If you write documentation in a common framework, and you have a common process for everyone, then the developers have an easier time picking up whether others left off, and working together. In a word: better encapsulation. I think Google had this back in the day with their interchangeable desks/developers :P
It is a general rule that anytime there is someone above you in the hierarchy, they are going to make $2 for every $1.50 you make. Of COURSE the VC's will make more money than you. And the people who put the actual money into the funds should make even more than THEM.
The startup world, and economy in general has changed dramatically from the last time jwz was heavily involved, IMO. It's good that he made what qualifies as his own fuck you money and can now look in on things from the outside and comment thoughtfully. For a lot of people though, working 80 hour weeks grinding out a startup or 3 is still the most probable way of banking a decent retirement fund AND still having some life left to enjoy. I don't think that I'd advise many people to do a 30 year career of crazy startups, but it's kind of a geek lottery and worth the gamble for lots of people.
I don't really see where this is using his name to sell a con. If that were the case, I would think Arrington would pick someone who hadn't dropped out of the game a decade ago to sell his 'con'.
Seems doubtful to me. Does anyone have statistics on how many non-founder VC funded engineers have made even $1 million off of equity? I'm going to guess it's less than 1:20,000 employees, a suckers bet. If you're willing to work hard you have a much better chance by starting your own boot-strapped non-pie-in-the-sky business that just sells something at a profit.
I still remember the thread where someone asked about how much people made out on an exit, and it seemed like firmly 80% of the people who responded said that they got screwed by the founders or VC, and only one said that he made enough for a downpayment on a house. So to me, 5% odds to make $1MM over 8 years seems really high.
It would be an interesting statistic to see how many startups have been started since 2008 and what their success rate has been.
And that's at least what _I_ took away from jwz's rant - doing it to get rich is a mug's game, choose to do "crazy startup" type things because you love doing it. You may get rich, you may not - truth is most of us can't tell from the inside whether we're "improving our chances" or not by slogging through as something we hate, it's ~90% likely to fail anyway. In the long run your chances of "happiness" are probably significantly improved by doing what you love now (instead of what you think might be outrageously lucrative).
There are far more startup employees that have become rich than founders or investors. Tens or hundreds of thousands of them. Of course they don't get as much money as the founders or investors, but how is that anything other than perfectly fair?
Empirically it does require extremely hard work to make a startup successful. You can't point to any major success like Netscape or Google that didn't involve someone at some point sleeping under a desk. That's really all Arriington is saying, and it's quite obviously correct.
For some people it might be no better than playing the lottery, but for other people their odds are going to be very high. Someone like Bill Gates would have been hugely successful as a McDonald's franchisee or anything else he chose to do.
Just because some people are delusional about their odds doesn't make it a con.
JWZ isn't a good example to emulate because he is a rare example. Patio11 is a better example because there are literally thousands more devs in a similar position. Self-employed, doing well, but not retired and not outrageously wealthy.
Not that I buy the comparison to lotteries. I'd say startups are much closer to poker. Some people have no chance at making a living playing poker -- other people could almost certainly do it if they tried.
I bet Bill Gates could have been a very good professional poker player.
So sure, there are billion dollar companies where employees get millions...but those are rare...almost as rare as the number of people who make millions playing the lottery
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But every time I think my job sucks, its too hard, my boss sucks etc, I think of this guy. I took this pic in India when they were laying a road near where I live. It was 100F and 100% humidity. The guy in the picture was carrying hot rocks and tar in a metal pan and spreading them across the road:
In general, I am thankful and immensely grateful. If you are reading this you should be as well.
"Normally I just ignore navel-gazing tech-industry articles like this, but people keep sending it to me, so I guess this guy is famous or something. Michael Arrington posted this article, "Startups Are Hard. So Work More, Cry Less, And Quit All The Whining" which quotes extensively from my 1994 diary.
He's trying to make the point that the only path to success in the software industry is to work insane hours, sleep under your desk, and give up your one and only youth, and if you don't do that, you're a pussy. He's using my words to try and back up that thesis.
I hate this, because it's not true, and it's disingenuous.
What is true is that for a VC's business model to work, it's necessary for you to give up your life in order for him to become richer.
Follow the fucking money. When a VC tells you what's good for you, check your wallet, then count your fingers.
He's telling you the story of, "If you bust your ass and don't sleep, you'll get rich" because the only way that people in his line of work get richer is if young, poorly-socialized, naive geniuses believe that story! Without those coat-tails to ride, VCs might have to work for a living. Once that kid burns out, they'll just slot a new one in.
I did make a bunch of money by winning the Netscape Startup Lottery, it's true. So did most of the early engineers. But the people who made 100x as much as the engineers did? I can tell you for a fact that none of them slept under their desk. If you look at a list of financially successful people from the software industry, I'll bet you get a very different view of what kind of sleep habits and office hours are successful than the one presented here.
So if your goal is to enrich the Arringtons of the world while maybe, if you win the lottery, scooping some of the groundscore that they overlooked, then by all means, bust your ass while the bankers and speculators cheer you on.
Instead of that, I recommend that you do what you love because you love doing it. If that means long hours, fantastic. If that means leaving the office by 6pm every day for your underwater basket-weaving class, also fantastic. "
That aside, it's still pretty readable. Besides, the content is worth the eye strain in this case.
The "oh my eyes" hyperbole about green on black is because people aren't used to it and it is in stark contrast to what "normal" is nowadays--but just use it for an hour and you'll be just fine. I personally think it's a little less straining on the eyes because there's less light hitting your eyes. Lately my terminals and emacs always use a black background.
(The human eye is most sensitive, and has highest resolution in green.)
Let's consider two situations:
1) You work X hours, paid Y dollars for that
2) You work 2 * X hours, paid 100 * Y dollars for that, and some VC is paid 1000 * Y dollars.
Should you chose the first?
His advice about "do what you like" is true in general but doesn't really account for the fact that you choose to work for a startup and you choose to accept VC money, with all the ups and downs attached to it. If you can't stand the heat - get out of the kitchen.
Arrington's article is misleading and destructive – sleeping two hours a night isn't required for success and often leads to outcomes far removed from success. It's rather depressing that it's commonly believed all successful startups are driven by people with a single-minded focus who have no other lives.
JWZ's post is, on the other hand, quite constructive – do what makes you happy. You don't have to fit the mold to be successful.
Yes, a startup will sometimes command your life but that doesn't mean it needs to always command your life. I know many startups who haven't taken VC and let their employees lead fulfilling lives outside of work. I know companies that have taken VC and still encourage their employees to work sane hours.
Working grueling and exhaustive hours doesn't guarantee success.
In startups chance that you will need to work long hours is so high it's almost a certainty - startups are just like that, disorganized, unpredictable, underfunded and understaffed - for various reasons. You have no way of knowing that you won't need to do 80 hours in one week if something unexpected happens, that's the nature of it, it's a high risk/reward game (and I'm not implying that reward is guaranteed if you work "hard") and anyone entering should know what they are getting them selves in to.
Fair enough, but people hiring others to work for them for 80hrs/week should also expect some push back from some of those employees attached with this notion of "living a life before it is too late".