Eric Ries has a great line in his talks about this. I'm paraphrasing it, but it's something like: "9/10 startups fail. I know yours is awesome so it won't, but the guy on your left; his will. The girl to your right; hers will. Same goes for their neighbours too."
Despite the failure, it was worth doing. I learnt a lot. About startups, about customers, and also about me. And besides, failing is faster than success!
Thanks for the kind words.
A lot of people think that, but it's not 9 out of 10 startups that fail.
It's FAAR worse odds than that.
Doing some Googling gives a number like 10% success, but it's not clear whether these figures are only for companies that received VC-funding.
So actually, I'm not sure. Point taken.
1) They say: 95% of businesses fail.
2) I say: 100% of the remaining 5% are successful.
“Most successful men have not achieved their distinction by having some new talent or opportunity presented to them. They have developed the opportunity that was at hand.”
— Bruce Barton
Given a long enough timeline even currently successful companies can become future failures.
Edit:By this I mean even successful companies can eventually lose out to competition when they lose their edge. Only the Paranoid Survive - Andy Grove.
There's the rub. A startup cannot be about the money - it's about changing the world and the way people live. If you are already doing that and feel fulfilled in your job (which most entrepreneurs simply can't), then more power to you.
You don't start a company for the sake of starting a company, you start a company because a startup is the only possible means by which you can bring to pass the change you want to see in the world and live the lifestyle you want to live. Michael Arrington compared it to becoming a pirate. "The potential for riches was just an argument for the venture. But the real payoff was the pirate life itself."
That having been said, I love the refreshing honesty about the reality of startup failure. A small part of me wishes more people wrote the stories of their failure; TechCrunch would be 90% people running through savings and eating ramen and 10% successful exits. Thank you for giving a real perspective into what entrepreneurship can be like.
There's the rub. A startup cannot be about the money - it's
about changing the world and the way people live.
And the guy's exciting world-changing ideas weren't his commercially viable ideas.
The technologies/products I was exploring - while awesome, some verifiably so according to the customers we spoke with - weren't likely to lead to profitable businesses. I had to learn the difference between a good idea and a good business model. This is a valuable lesson for any entrepreneur.
As something to play around with as a hobby or technology demo they're still great ideas, but as businesses they're not viable (and in one case, perhaps just not yet.)
I don't agree with you, by the way. And there's loads of research suggesting that males are much more prone to risk-taking than females. And not only in humans.
HNers: do people think that someone who has got the startup thing out of their system themselves will make a better employee?
I have the luxury of a reasonably large nest egg from my previous job, so I'm not desperate for work. I'm considering whether any of these ideas are licensable (I've never done licensing before, but it doesn't seem too unfathomable.) I'm also networking/advertising myself, partly through posts like this, and seeing what opportunities turn up as a result. If you'd seen my inbox since posting this you'd become a believer in this strategy...
It sound like you don't have to worry about connecting a job/business with your desire to create.
Build a great workshop at your home and work on projects that you are passionate about. If you start to build something that you think has market viability you have the experience needed to vet the idea in the market. Something that can be done on a lunch hour or over weekends, depending on the demographic.
I'm definitely still creating. Watch this space.
While it may look like a failure, if anything you've achieved an incredible success and compacted a long, arduous process into an incredibly short timeframe.
Money begins as the driving force to launching a company, but I've learned that once you get going, you quickly forget about money as the reason for building a company, and begin to appreciate the process of BUILDING.
As much as you think you're done, I see the underpinnings of an entrepreneur, if you can stomache it.
But you're right I'm probably not done. I still like this world; making stuff, fixing people's problems, innovating, etc. What I've learnt is that I certainly don't want to be the CEO/hustler. I like technology more than money. I should sit on the CTO/product side of the fence if I do it again.
However, I think there's one thing that needs to be reiterated, for everybody who's reading hacker news and thinking about starting a company:
The world probably does not need yet another incarnation of project management/collaboration software.
If I had a dollar for every first-time entrepreneur who told me they were starting a new project management tool for team collaboration app, I'm probably have enough to A-round my own company.
That's not to say it's not possible to succeed here – Trello is a case in point – but one has to realize that Joel has been in the project management space for probably close to a decade. It's even probable that he would've failed except for the fact he has such a large online following that just happens to be his target audience.
To use the example below, if 9/10 startups fail then probably 49/50 of project management/collaboration startups fail.
By all means, do a startup, but at least give yourself a fighting chance.
Side note: I remember when my first phase of 'burnout' hit me and I literally got sick at a meeting with a bunch of investors. There's a whole post to be done on taking care of yourself in a startup there.
I hope my next gig will be somewhere amongst the union of robotics, consumer tech, useful, helps humanity, and scalable. It wouldn't have to be robotics (but robotics can be arbitrarily vague anyway), as long as there's room for me to learn and I can actually see people using what I've created.
Sometimes, one has a secret, that one is willing to share, but that sharing that secret is likely to be treated by one's audience as being emotionally weighty. So if one (and by "one" I mean "me") shares, the audience is all "why are you sharing this, why are you imposing on me with this knowledge". My honesty is very often a burden on other people.
My mother in law, for example, was at one point annoyed by me repeatedly using the phrase "my father's husband" (around her more-conservative father, my grandfather-in-law). I'm aware that that phrase "reveals" something that could potentially be a secret, that I don't want to be a secret. On the one hand, that's the right label for this person! On the other hand, it makes the social situation more frustrating for someone other than myself. She accused me of using the phrase just to be provocative (and maybe at some level she was right?).
Another example: Dan Savage argues that if you've cheated on your spouse (and they suspect nothing), confessing simply transfers the burden from you to them; it's selfish.
There's a tendency to portray the tradeoff of honesty as being like this: if I'm honest, I pay a cost, but other people benefit. But of course, the cost is often paid by other people.
So, if honesty is a means to an end, and the end is being a responsible person who bears their responsibilities well, maybe honesty isn't always the best means. Maybe I need to learn to be less honest, in order to be a better person.
I like to think of myself as being radically honest, and I generally trend to saying "Yes" to "Does this dress make my butt look fat", and it often goes badly. But I'm a damn long way from Blanton as portrayed in that piece.
Also, I don't drink, partly because I want to remain in control of myself, which relates to honesty. I guess I don't trust people to like me when I'm drunk. Maybe where other people might give up drink (e.g. for Lent), maybe I should try giving up sobriety. Might not be optimal for job performance, though.
"why did I quit a job that met all these criteria? The easy answer is that I knew I didn't want to be an academic. But since the job was a stepping stone to a similar, higher paying job in industry, there's a more complex answer hiding away in here somewhere."
That answer could be: Freedom.
But it's a pretty inspiring post. =)