The reasons doing a startup are totally irrelevant. For some it's money, for other power, status, passion or whatever. It's not important why you do a startup. These are just drivers and they are good because they push you to start—push you beyond your boundaries. Are these the right reasons? Nobody cares.
It's important just to do something, to start and to carry on.
Even if it will get very hard it's the most satisfying experience you'll never regret—you learn, you do, you make decisions. Looking back every single day I spent as an employee was a waste of time.
Knowing why you do something, puts the soul in your work. Without it, it's just work. I refuse to believe life is simply a long grind of do-ing with an eventual not-doing as the reward. No. Love for your work, passion for what you do, is the thing that fathers beautiful things. It's the thing that makes great companies work. Heck, it's the thing that makes life work.
You list power, status or passion as possible why's. Which leads me to believe you misunderstand what true motivation really is. Wanting to create something beautiful for the sake of beauty, to contribute in a meaningful way, to add instead of substract. These are transcending human endeavours. Status, power, money; just side-effects to the medicin that is purpose.
Even you've had a reason for pushing yourself to create. Perhaps it was that in the back of your mind you believed that you deserved to live a better lifestyle.
It's your vision of the future that moves you to act. The belief that things can be different, and that you are able to effect that difference. Having a why isn't important?
Having a why is the goal.
It's interesting that you use the word transcend. I believe its 100% appropriate in this case.
Money, power, passion, and status are wholly human motivations available to anyone. The desire for beauty for the sake of beauty really does transcend the far more practical goals of majority of people, and places as an ideal something completely abstract.
Now, I wouldn't call it "true" motivation because that'd lead us down the angle of a "no true scotsman" discussion.
Even if you do a startup for 'wrong' reasons like chasing money and fame at least you did something, hell you learned something and made mistakes. That's what's all about! What's the alternative? Staying employed and missing all your life?
It's the experience, it's the way and not the goal.
Discussions around doing or not doing a startup are just excuses for oneself to not start something because it's not the right idea, not the right time, not the right co-founders, not the right setup and suddenly these people are 50, missed everything and are full of fear loosing their crappy job.
Definitely not against building a startup. However instead of building another photo sharing social media site why not build a better way to raise money for charity, or solve a difficult problem in your field of expertise.
Why kill yourself for five years on a problem or pursuit you are not 100% passionate about?
People who genuinely have the psychological characteristics that would make them ideally suited for a startup are unlikely to care if other people think they should do a startup.
People that would not do a startup because they are told "don't do a startup" are precisely the people that should not be doing a startup. The details of the argument against doing a startup almost do not matter.
I agree with you but it also depends on the particular person and their background also. For example I did a "startup" and succeeded right out of college. But I had always done business things on the side. And I came from a business family. So it was second nature to me when it came time to start something and I had plenty of confidence and it was encouraged by my family (not directly "go do it" but by the lack of negativity.) Had I come from a family of, say, educators or scientists, I don't think it would be the same. Unless of course there was some external reason they were supportive (reading about it or knowing another child of a friend that succeeded or other evidence). Only one example of course but I remember at the time my gf's mother cringing at what I told her I was going to do (after graduating from Wharton no less).
If you've traveled the world (I haven't) you are definitely going to feel more comfortable picking up and just going to another foreign city. You feel confident about that even if you, in general, lack confidence. I'm sure I would have more anxiety than you would even with my confidence that might cause me not to take that journey.
I do agree with the "told don't do a startup" and listening most likely don't have the personality to overcome many of the obstacles that are involved.
"As for the ones that have gotten to that sort of scale, it is open for debate whether they've changed the world at all, and, if they have, whether they've done so in a way that is meaningful or has improved the circumstances of mankind."
This sums up my problem with the whole 'change the world with your startup' philosophy. What does 'change the world' even mean? It is a fluffy, nebulous term - the startup thinker's equivalent of 'increasing synergy by leveraging strategic partnerships'. If you like that flavour of Kool Aid, great, drink up!
Github has changed the world by making it easier to find and share interesting code. Balsamiq has changed the world by making it easier to create mockups. I want to change the world by making it easier to run your own game server .
None of these things will go down in history as revolutionary, life-changing ideas at a global scale. But they can improve the lives of a subset of humanity, while letting their owners solve interesting problems and (hopefully) earn a living at the same time. That, to me, is a good enough reason to do a startup.
I think the idea behind "don't do a startup" is to warn and discourage people that want to do it because it's cool.
The fundamentals behind starting a startup should be orders of magnitude stronger than that. You'll know if you got them.
While I think the startup experience should be tried by anyone (and by the way, I don't think startup life sucks, but it is hard), I hope it won't turn into an international trend where every "social" site equals a multi-million $ business.
By the same token, why bother discouraging people? It's the same as saying "stay in school, don't do drugs. Don't try to be a rockstar like me." There's only so much need for startups and so much money to go around. To me, the original article was just an excuse for this guy to "humblebrag."
I too got the same feeling that who is this guy to tell me not to do a startup? Worse, he also says what I should do(go to banking/finance where I can make money or keep collecting paychecks). Hell, I love writing code and building stuff compared to doing banking. So, if I ever earn something, I will try to get it by building something.
Thinking again - he's had a successful startup and no doubt a hell lot of people ask him advice and all these points he gave are for those kind of people. Though he didn't highlight it, he said not to do it for the wrong reasons. Right and wrong are sometimes relative, right? Anyways, apart from this advice and he calling the Evernote a second brain, the other info about how he saw confidence in his business and how important it is for customers to stay than pay were really useful. Unfortunately people are talking more about the beginnings than endings. May be he's fed up with a lot of people asking for advice and this is how he publicly declared his answers for such people.
When I was considering a career as a musician and actor in middle school and high school, there's a piece of advice I was given many, many times by my mentors and teachers: "Only pursue a career in the performing arts if you can't see yourself being happy doing anything else. It's hard. You will face countless rejections, and even after that you'll most likely never make it big. But if you can't see yourself being happy do anything else, go for it."
If you think you could be just as happy working for a large company, you should probably go do so. Entrepreneurship is tough, and if you can find satisfaction from a job that doesn't have the monumental downsides that doing a startup does, you're probably better off steering clear. If that's not the case, and if for whatever reason you can't imagine yourself working anywhere other than a startup, do it. Don't feel like you need to tell people that they're doing it for the wrong reasons, or that you need to justify your own reasoning to those sorts of people.
I think the original article (the talk by Phil Libin) was targeted for a more general audience, which qualifies his suggestion not to do a statup. Libin writes:
"I’ve narrowed it down, really boiled it down, to one core piece of advice. If I can only say one thing, and I don’t know you any better, it’s: don’t. Don’t do it. Seriously."
The key part here is "If I can only say one thing, and I don't know you any better" -- for MOST people, starting your own company is not a good idea! Especially if you'd be doing it for any of the misconceptions that Libin outlines.
However, it is odd that Libin chose such an approach given that he was speaking at a conference with a big emphasis on web start ups.
I guess what he means is every year you'll be more settled in your current situation. And if things change (getting a steady relation, kids, buying a house, earning more money), the choice is harder to do a start-up.