But it doesn't mean you need to fit any of those definitions to be a Startup. Except in the mind of the author.
I run a successful little software startup that has as its first and primary goal: "Maximize Jason's vacation time". Every decision I make is made in that context. So profitability is important, as is low customer support requirements, as is technical simplicity (so I never have to cut a trip short because something breaks).
From that standpoint, articles like this that make it sound like a startup should consume your life and thoughts seem a bit silly. No it shouldn't. Not unless you want it to.
That's the cool thing about running your own business. You get to run it any way you please.
That doesn't apply to most small businesses, even new ones.
Say you want to disrupt credit card payments. Do you need to work on that 20 hours a day, 7 days a week? Or can credit cards be disrupted 8-5 M-F? Seems either is possible.
Starting a new business is not a sprint, but a marathon. And all this romanticizing does a huge disservice to the people who buy the hype and end up burned out.
Eh... I don't know. I mean, yeah, I totally agree with the sentiment that "Starting a new business is not a sprint, but a marathon." But, even so, part of the issue is the old saw that (paraphrased) says "an entrepreneur is someone who sets out to change something about the world when he doesn't control the resources necessary to do so."
If you buy that definition then doing a startup is trying to do the (nearly) impossible. Given that, you look at the simply ridiculous amount of work in front of you, and the resources you have available, and you don't have much choice but to do as much as you can with the one resource you do control: yourself.
I guess there is some romanticizing involved, but doing a startup is hard and I don't see any way around that. It takes a lot out of you, and I believe you do have to sacrifice a little (maybe a lot) at least in the early days, until you get some traction and can start attracting more resources to your initiative.
Maybe, if you're a natural born salesperson and can attract more resources without traction, it's a different story. Or maybe I'm just one of the people who has bought the marketing hype.
I probably watched The Social Network one time too many. :-) Or maybe, in my case, it's just because I'm getting older and feel like I'm running out of time to do something big.
My issue with it is that it views starting a startup as a kind of gamble. Every sleepless night, weekend at the office and skipped vacation is absolutely guaranteed to come back and bite you in the ass after a certain time. If you are into gambling, you might bet on "hitting a home run" (whatever that means) before that happens. But you might as well try your chances in Vegas. In reality behind every overnight success is skill and years of dedicated work. And there's no way you are going to stay in overdrive for years without wrecking yourself and your startup.
I'm speaking from personal experience btw. I used to subscribe to that ideology and I still haven't fully recovered years later.
Yeah, you definitely can't sprint the entire marathon. I won't argue that. But I think there are moments when you choose to sprint for a while, to achieve certain goals. And even the non "flat out sprint" moments are a hard slog.
The thing that I don't do well, is allowing myself to take time off. I can't escape the sense of feeling guilty when I do... if I go out to watch a movie or go out drinking or whatever, I always find myself thinking "I could be (writing code|doing market research|writing a whitepaper|etc.)" the whole time. So I don't wind up taking much time off. Whether I'll look back on this whole experience as being a net negative, or a net positive, remains TBD.
There's no question its more work than anyone expects. I just believe there's a better way than perpetually stumbling a startup
However start-up life does include periods of overwork to get things done. Things that you could put off for a couple of days if you had a regular job.
It's about finishing stuff today, so tomorrow you can do more important strategical stuff.
Start-up contrary to some of beliefs is not one big effort to reach the summit. It's a series of small wins (and loses) that accumulate. And you need to be accumulating them faster than your money runs out or competition takes the space, etc.
Yes, but marathons are won by those who can run at the speed most others sprint.
Strongly disagree. Start-ups fail for lots of reasons; burn-out being one of them.
Start-ups are just high risk/reward jobs without many of the guarantees or safety nets that the traditional employer/employee relationship can provide.
If you don't have your work life balance sorted out, then something will fail; be it your start-up, your relationships/marriage/family, or both.
If you get to the point of burn out and it's a choice of either burn-out completely or - by taking a holiday - a failed start-up then you can't blame the holiday, I'd be looking at the original idea and/or the execution.
God, grant me the tolerance to accept the limitations of my MVP, strength and determination to work on what must be worked on now, and wisdom to know the difference.
let's stop pretending there is more to it than that, because it's hard enough.
Or you're a human being and you'll be just fine.
So with that argument turned around again on startups, if you need time off, vacations, private me time or whatever to get better at what you do, you should take it. Excessive stress does not make a better person, nor a better life.
i call a 'job' something that has a stable job description, clear career path and predictable roadmap. vacation becomes just another item on the calendar then, which is perfectly fine.
you can and should still excel in those conditions, but the project won't be jeopardized or stalled if you take time off. and when you come back, chances are that the specs of your project didn't shift yet.
there is a surprising amount of people working in jobs, even in technology sector, but they are not founders or employees of early stage companies.
and yes, if you feel like you need time off, you need time off. but planned vacations in this environment I just don't see plausible. I've never been able to even book a plane ticket more than a week in advance, because plans always changed.
Fix that if you can.
From your comments on this thread, I get the sense that you've let your business get out of control a bit. You think that it's all normal and part of the deal because it's all you know. But lots of people here are trying to tell you it's not.
If you can't mold the business you created yourself to fit the pattern you want, that's a big red flag. Now, it's likely that the pattern you want actually is to be occupied 24/7 and pour your whole life into your thing, in which case you've succeeded.
But know that it doesn't need to be that way. It's entirely your choice.
a) i'm not saying anyone should overwork themselves, you're seeing that in my post. all i'm saying is that even when entrepreneur (or a type thereof) tries to unplug, the brain still works on the same problems.
b) work-life balance is bullshit, doesn't work. you can't switch contexts like that efficiently. if you try and think you'll be able to, no surprise you need vacation as well.
c) i'm racing against wantrepreneurs who think they have a hard job building a startup because they worry about paying for office space and other non-essential things. as more cash is sent towards early-stage startups, I see more of this behavior emerging.
Efficiency is the anti-goal of a well-balanced life.
It's not efficient to drive four hours to Yosemite just to hike a new trail with my wife. It's not efficient to spend all afternoon trying to cook my own pizza instead of just ordering one for delivery. It's certainly not efficient to spend years learning to speak a new language for no practical reason.
However inefficient, all these "life" activities enrich and contextualize your work. There is nothing quite like a long hike to help you wrap your head around a difficult algorithm, or bringing a team together over some bad homemade pizza, or serendipitously running across a potential investor who speaks your otherwise "useless" second language.
This is what work-life balance is all about. It's about investing in yourself and, indirectly, your work. It's never efficient, but a lot of us find it necessary and rewarding.
I'm trying to figure out better ways to maximize my time and squeeze the absolute most out of it, while maintaining some semblance of work/life balance. But it's a struggle, there's no doubt. There's the momentary victory of working out all of the scheduling but if you burn out, it's not worth much, is it?
In my opinion, a job is what you spend time doing to live your life. If you do a startup so you can continue to live, that's your job.