Posted on June 19, 2009
Filed Under Business |
The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” - Nolan Bushnell
Entrepreneurs are the celebrities of the business world. The business media loves to profile Mark Zuckerberg, Kevin Rose, Evan Williams, and others the way the regular media stalks Brad Pitt and Lindsay Lohan. It is a profitable media formula because most people have the dream - the dream to work for themselves and also make few million dollars in the process. But, it’s a myth.
I know a lot of people who want to be entrepreneurs. Even people who will never take the plunge will tell me that they wish they had the composure to do it. From the outside looking in, it seems so sexy. But is isn’t.
Last Friday I was in Boston to visit David Friend, CEO of Carbonite (a six time software entrepreneur) and Dharmesh Shah, who is one of the investors in LifestreamBackup. I traveled with another entrepreneur friend of mine, and we stayed with his entrepreneurial friend who just had a major exit. During the weekend, I heard multiple stories of startups. There stories weren’t just about any startups, but successful ones. None of the stories were sexy.
Most of the people involved never intended to be entrepreneurs, it just sort of happened. They didn’t start with a grand idea, a patent, or even funding in many cases. Some of the businesses were in competitive spaces that you would have thought they were nuts to go into. Time after time after time, the story was not sexy. It was about grinding it out. It was a story of will. It was a story of perseverance. It was a story of doing tasks that, from the outside looking in, would seem boring, dry, and monotonous. Every single one of these stories followed that same story line.
I thought about that as I was planning my weekend, which will mostly be spent reading about landing page optimization and analytics. We have received lots of congratulations on the launch of Lifestreambackup, great feedback on the product, and have signed up quite a few early adopters. In some ways, it seems like we are pretty far along, but the truth is that we are just beginning. The strategy sessions, the product development brainstorming sessions, the planning… it was all a lot of fun. But that doesn’t build any business value. The business value comes when you take it to the customer and you get paid for providing a valuable product or service. The grind-out starts now, and it won’t be sexy. It will be tiring. The thing about being an entrepreneur though, is that for some sick and twisted reason, you like that part. Pouring through data, pitching your product, building partnerships, all the stuff that seems like boring work from the outside is actually pretty enjoyable in the right context.
The web has been a bad thing for entrepreneurs because too many people believe they can just build something and “throw it out there.” That somehow, magically, people come and then even if you don’t have a revenue model Google buys you because you had a cool idea. No one would ever say “let’s just build the hotel… put it out there and see what happens.” No one would ever say something like that about any non-web business. Web startups shouldn’t be any different.
Too many entrepreneurs stop after they build the product. They think that building products is what makes them an entrepreneur. But entrepreneurship is about building businesses, and the product is just one part of that.
People often tell me that they want to start their own business, they just need an idea. What they really need is to just start doing something. Entrepreneurship isn’t about wild launch parties and billion dollar IPOs before age 30. Those types of things are rare, as is most of the entrepreneurship that is portrayed in the media. Most entrepreneurs, and the stuff that they do, isn’t featured in magazines because it isn’t really sexy.
So, when you think about starting a business, don’t do it because you think it will be sexy. It probably won’t be. Instead, it will be about grinding it out for customers, constantly learning, making lots of mistakes, and some beating your head against a wall. It won’t be fast, and it won’t be easy, but in some strange way, you will probably love it.