Dear Bright-Eyed New Founder,
For your sake, I hope you fail. And, I hope you fail fast.
Taking a step back.
Every time I go to a startup event I meet many first-time entrepreneurs who are in the earliest of days working on their new ideas. While their energy is inspiring, most are working on bad ideas. By bad ideas, I mean ideas that will never transform into sustainable companies. Even if the suavest of founders raises money from the sexiest of investors, these ideas will not create a sustainable value proposition for customers. And eventually these companies will cease to exist.
Some founders will get lucky and they’ll sell their unsustainable company to an irrational buyer (whom will likely eventually shut it down thereafter). But, most won’t. Most will flounder and toil for years before dying a slow death – all the time still living in denial.
Please don’t mistake my pragmatism as negativity. It’s not. I love the startup life, the community and the impact innovation has on mankind. I’m a serial founder after all. I’m just keeping it real. Most of you are going to eat shit and a lot of it. It’s a simple fact something to the tune of 99% of startups don’t work out.
Smoke on that stat and smoke on it long and hard. It’s not a stat you should brush off with blissful ignorance or merely swipe away because you heard that passion will beat the odds. Understand it. Own it. 99% is a freakin’ frighteningly high failure rate.
So why are you, in your first venture, going to defy the odds? I’m not saying you can’t or won’t. Many founders have. But why are you so sure? Maybe you’ll win or maybe you’ll join the ranks of so many failed founders before you.
I’m the tenacious type. I read somewhere that passion and effort will overcome the odds and so I out-passion-ed and out-effort-ed everything I could during my first ventures, but I still failed. And, you might too. Accept that reality and own it. It will empower you.
What you need to succeed isn’t what is typically prescribed. Foolish optimism and hustle won’t convince customers. What you need is skepticism.
You need to own the 99% statistic. You need to look for failure under every rock. You need to try and kill your venture. Try to break the weakest link and then the next and then the next after that. And, when it doesn’t break…when you can’t kill it…you’ll have a business that will succeed. Trying to kill your company is the best thing you can do for your investors, your team and yourself.
Ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s for fools. Think of your startup as an experiment, not a business. Then use the scientific method to test your ventures. The way I think about it ventures are only experiments until you can’t kill them. And only then do they become companies.