Many people think startups are cool. This post will tell you they are not. It will tell you that being a startup is something to be avoided. In the process you will learn about nuclear research, the birth of the world wide web and meet the first cool tech founder. In the end, founders will know what to focus on. Focus is everything. Do it.
The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki started a war. A war that is still being fought today.
The instant cremation of thousands of people from only 64 kg of uranium highlighted the power of science and technology.
Europe was quick to respond. In 1954, twelve European states met and formed “Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire”. Or more commonly known as CERN.
CERN was created to make Europe leading in nuclear research. To win the war of science and technology. But fate had another plan for CERN. It would make tech startups cool.
The first of the cool
Ten years before startups became cool, a CERN employee made history. Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web.
Tim was proud of his invention. He described it in detail, but only few people took notice. Among the few was a young American. His name: Marc Andreessen.
Marc was a geek. The opposite of cool. But that was about to change. Because Marc would do something no one had done before.
Marc took Tim’s invention and created the world’s fist popular web browser. Mosaic. But equally important, he became the first young tech startup billionaire. In 1996, Time Magazine had him on the cover. Marc Andreessen was 25 years old.
And so it happened. Tech startups became cool thanks to CERN and Mark Andreessen. Today, Silicon Valley is a hit series on HBO, Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel is dating Hollywood star Miranda Kerr and fashion model Tyra Banks invests in startups. But startups were never supposed to be cool. In fact, they are as uncool as can be.
Startups are Marky Mark
Steve Blank has the following definition of startups: A startup is a temporary organization used to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.
The key word here is temporary. A startup is temporary because it doesn’t generate enough revenue to sustain itself. This situation only has two end-games. 1) the startup closes down 2) the startup begins to make money.
Either outcome is actually good. If the startup cannot find product market fit, the best thing is to close down as quickly as possible. If the startup finds product market fit and make money, it morphs into a business.
The startup phase should be as short as possible. But the recent hype around startups creates the opposite incentive. To embrace the startup identity.
The startup identity lures founders into a dangerous reality. A world where it’s okay not to have revenue. Where failure is accepted. Where burning cash is natural. But where press, cool conferences and C-level titles are abundant.
The startup reality is deceptive. Like teenage life. No responsibilities and many parties. It feels cool, but adult people know it’s not. Its a phase that you need to go through. Mark Wahlberg (in the picture) would agree.
Instead of embracing the startup identity, excellent founders do the opposite. They shun PR, conferences and fancy titles. They know it’s a dangerous waste of time.
Excellent founders do the uncool. They do cold calls, suffer tons of rejections, sacrifice friends and family, assemble Ikea furniture in the middle of the night. They forget about saving for pension and delay buying a house. They hustle and barter. But most of all they worry.
They worry about being startup. They want to grow up. Like Marky Mark.
- The startup identity has become cool.
- The startup reality lures founders into embracing the startup identity.
- Excellent founders focus on becoming a business.
Check out Accelerace. We invest in tech startups.