Then the best way to succeed is not to understand that the odds are against you, it's to change those odds. If investors won't invest, find out why and change those odds. If no one wants to join you, find out why and change those odds. If customers don't buy, find out why and change those odds. If things don't work, find out why and change those odds.
Not only that, but most successes rely on countless variables, and most of these variables are out of your control.
Then find a way to work in a world defined by less-than-countless variables, most of which are within your control. You can't control what others will think or do, but there are things you can determine that will affect you plan of action.
By deduction, most successes are lucky ones.
Remove the words "By deduction" and your sentence is generally true. Keep those words and get a chuckle from those who know how to alter their landscape to remove luck from the equation.
You're completely right that most first-time entrepreneurs should be mitigating risk , but the easiest ways are usually not part of their thought process. Things like "let's start a consultancy", or "let's build a B2B company in a business that I validate in advance by getting people to actually pay for my product's development", or even "let's take a working business model and import it to a new geographic location".
: I assume here that most first-time entrepreneurs care more about the expected value of their business, rather than other things like "changing the world" or "running a 100-person business". This isn't entirely accurate, but is very close for most non-rich people, and actually a lot of the ways to mitigate risk can also increase the chance of these things as well.
It's the product/service/approach/target audience/etc. that needs to change. The "odds" are an output, something you can only change by altering your inputs.
But my main point from the post is I want people to be OK and accepting of "failures". Because in reality, it isn't a failure. It is a lesson that you learned for your next attempt.
One day someone asked Thomas Edison “Aren’t you ashamed that you have failed 99 times?” Edison replied “I have not failed, rather I’ve learnt 99 ways in which an electric bulb would not lit up”
^^ This is what I mean by not fearing "failures"
There is a lot that can be done to mitigate risk. My biggest issue is that my time is limited and I don't have the luxury of taking a couple years off to make a go at it (not yet at least).
So I am trying to find a potential business (software related) that I can build on the side that gains enough traction that I need to devote full time to it.
I feel like under my circumstances, I shouldn't even try but I think its worth an effort.
To me, articles like this are the same as the rich guy telling the poor guy "C'mon, just buy the car. What's the worst that can happen?" The fact of the matter is that a lot can happen that can have long-term consequences that should be weighed and considered.
I admire entrepreneurs that can make incredible leaps of faith, but we typically only hear about the ones who succeed. There's also ones who took the leap with nothing to land on and came up short. There's also ones who carefully planned and took a "controlled leap."
Also, what does every action sports star, race car driver or soldier say? They say it would be more dangerous if they weren't at least a little scared of failing, and that elements of fear keep you attentive and energized. The same applies in entrepreneurship.
"Failure" carries different consequences depending on the person and the situation. To some, failing means they lost some investor's money and are on to the next project, or for some could mean having to find a job. While it could mean bankruptcy to others. Depending on circumstances, not everyone can afford to be so cavalier and needs to be a little more analytical.
Fear of failure is part of entrepreneurship and its historically the hurdle that separates entrepreneurs from everyone else. It certainly shouldn't be taken lightly.
I'm pretty sure there is more than one lesson to learn about, well, anything.
Ever since the adoption of "Lean startup" methodology, "failure" suddenly becomes a no big deal to entrepreneur. Making decision is like throwing a Hail Mary that you don't really care too much about the outcome. Yeah I failed. So what? Let's try it again. Let's try 100 more times and we may hit a home run.
If you can put a A-class work in front of people, why do you even want to settle on B/C/D-class stuff? The world doesn't, and shouldn't, work in this way. Failure is bad for your reputation, at anytime, anywhere, in front of anyone. There is a reason why nowadays, acq-hire is more and more popular, because it give others impression that, hey, I didn't fail, I sold my business because it's a good deal. Sure, 1 out of 10 cases is like this. But for the other 9? it just helps to cover your ass and avoid putting the tag "failure" on you in your future career.
Is failure end of world? Of course not. Does it mean you shouldn't set a high bar, think carefully, plan comprehensively, put as much effort as possible to maximize the outcome? Hell no. Remember, you can only control what you can control. So, whenever you do something you can control, you better do it right.
Sometimes you just don't get second chance.
"fail fast" I think embraces:
- finding if your idea works FAST. Stuff like Pretotyping.
Yes, that part suggests showing something half-baked ("B/C/D class stuff"), to see if it works - example: mocking up something the size of a Palm and seeing if you would carry it around all the time, to validate that hypothesis. Or the modern-day landing page.
However, once you validated the first part, the MVP does not have to be half-baked... on the contrary, it has to be crafted as well as you can !!!
But with only the minimal set of stuff the user needs. The original iPhone didn't have cut&paste - do you think it was a failure? Most succesful early-runners do one thing and do it well, and then build on it.
"Some people equate the word lean with cheap, and cheap with low quality. They are using the wrong definition of the word lean.
"Lean" in Lean Startup is derived from the Toyota Production System, which is decades old. The definition of Toyota's lean is "to design out waste and overburden.""
The point is, find out what the customer needs first and fast ("fail fast"), then deliver, but deliver something of quality. With code it's tricky because you're iterating and it might be tempting to keep in low-quality stuff, but even the iPhone iterated :)
That is hardly a strong argument! I tend to put up the red flag when I hear "there is only one way" about anything.
Of course, one cannot tell with certainty if a business idea will work or not. No one really expects that, do they? Don't ask one person and expect their opinion to be any more than it is -- one piece of information, often anecdotal and biased in some way. Talk to many people. Select them based both on your target market and diversity. Construct a mosaic of information. Think about what you learn.
If you think probabilistically, I would suggest that an entrepreneur's 'startup' decision is better framed by two questions:
1. Given your nature and interests, what business ideas are more likely to work well?
2. What are some effective ways to test (figure out) if a business idea will work?
Some good options include: get out and talk to people; sell before build; learn about your industry; surround yourself with passionate, smart, informed people; experiment; test; measure; create.
Sometimes I think entrepreneurs err a bit too much on the side of being too 'okay' with failing and pivoting (buzz word), but I'm a big believer in planning, executing, reflecting, and repeating. Sure, for some things you just have to jump straight in, but I think caution, thought, and preparation all go a long way.
Not being afraid to fail (fast) along the way, is just as important as not being afraid to start.
The culture of fear actually makes sense because, in a feudalistic reputation economy where you can spend months dealing with the fallout of a bad reference or a business failure, there is a lot to be feared.
I feel like a lot of people put these manic "I quit my job to do a startup" posts and put them on HN and get lots of kudos. No one writes, "I'm 33 and answer to a 26-year-old 'tech lead' and I have no savings; that's how much my three startup failures have fucked up my life and career." People talk a good game about their successes, but failures are embarrassing, messy and complicated and almost no one is willing to share a full story over one of those, especially if they involve other people. (That's understandable, but it's still biased reporting.)
The unfortunate truth is that we really don't live in a world where that kind of cavalier attitude toward failure can be afforded. That's especially true given how rapidly age discrimination becomes a problem for us.
I believe it is the eve of being well-known that we are all our own spokespersons and that our branding and image is just as much a puff piece as a coke commercial.
I do agree this falls apart when the stories involve other people, at least non-anonymous people. No one likes a snitch.
I live in New York. Most people expect perfect career histories, even in startups. Even minor blemishes put you out forever. It's that competitive.
When I was at Google, I put together a strategy that would have saved Google+ Games (there was a G+ Games, you ask? My point exactly) and no one took it seriously because my previous startup (at which I was an engineer, not CEO) had failed. Had that startup become a success, people would have taken the suggestion seriously and Google would be worth at least tens of millions more.
I'm 29 and already deal with age discrimination and the "job hopper" stigma from having made a couple bad calls and having a story that looks more like freelancing than the "company man" fantasy (which is dead, and people who still believe in it and hold "job hopping" against people should be evaluated for dementia).
I also get an unbelievable amount of shit about leaving Google and, on a job interview, you can't exactly say, "Oh, their reputation as a great place to work is completely fraudulent because in 2009 they hired a bunch of transplant execs who turned the company into Enron, and now it's impossible to move to a better project." It's the truth, but I can't say it.
Maybe it's magically different in the Valley. I don't live there; I don't know.
Argh - I am so glad I don't live in an elitist nyc/valley area where people compete through job cannibalism. My life is simple, my home is cozy and my nights are mine. I write code in a small shop on its 11th year, my 5th. I am so glad that software is not all about life in the fastlane. I admire your life style, but I do not envy it.
The startup where I worked was completely unrelated to the idea that would have saved G+.
I'm saying that, had that startup succeeded and had I ended up at Google around the same time, I would have had the credibility to actually roll up my sleeves, push a few idiots out of the way, and save those tens of millions of dollars. But I didn't have that credibility, at least not then, so I had to sit back and watch as enormous amounts of value were incinerated before my eyes.
Now that I'm 29 and have had 6 jobs, I really don't want to keep changing. I'll gladly bolt if I end up with an awful manager, bait-and-switch hiring, or any of the other nonsense that we put up with in this industry, but there's something to be said for a 5+ year fit. I really don't want another 6-month fling. Any idiot can get "a job"; getting the right one, one that comes with some credibility and autonomy, is important.
It seems that most people, after a startup fails, end up in the shitpile applying for bullshit subordinate roles where they might get to write 5 lines of new code per day in the vain hope that one day, several years later, The Boss might throw them a bone and give them a real project.
Most SV companies I've dealt with seemed not to have their act together. A couple were pretty cool, but one told me to expect 5 phone screens (I bowed out; don't have time for that shit at my age) and one required signing a full-on non-compete to take a coding test! This prima donna shit gets old.
I think there are a few million unemployed Americans who would love to have a word with you.
While I agree that we -- at least the two of us, anyway -- lead lifestyles that don't support high-stakes gambling, trust fund babies and other independently-wealthy people can afford that attitude, at least to a point.
The only difference is where that point is. For some people it's high enough that dropping everything and throwing a Hail Mary just isn't a big deal. For most of us that's a very poor decision. Discovering or deciding where that point is in your current situation should be the first step for anyone in deciding just how afraid they should be of failure depending on the investment they're considering.
Oh, and if your investors fire you "for performance" (if the thing in a tail spin, getting fired almost doesn't matter and might make your life better) you might as well kill self. No one is going to touch a fired founder with a 10-foot pole. Even regular jobs are out of the question, much less the EIR sinecures and executive injections that acqui-failed founders usually get.