Don’t bite the shit sandwich

CC thecheals (ps - it's Nutella)

The “startup” world is bursting with bullshit (or, if you prefer, ‘unicorn dust’).

There are bullshit peddlers on every blog-corner. They don’t want merely to get you to read. They don’t want merely to sell you their products now and again. They want to sell you on their religion.

There are two reasons to sell religion:

  1. To feel validated
  2. To sell something else under the cover of righteousness

Many startup writers want to sell your their ideology because they feel validated as human beings by your agreement. That’s not incredibly skeezy, it’s just human. (Though perhaps a tad bit unself-aware.)

And then you have the other group.

There’s a handful of people, prominent people, who drive their propaganda machines with a purpose: they want you… as grist for their industrial mill. They want to sell you on BIG things (high-dollar consulting, high-dollar seminars, systems), or they want a piece of you directly. An investor can’t exist without products to invest in.

They have skin in the game. Their outcomes hinge on whether you buy in.

So they lure you in by dressing up a shit sandwich.

Mmmmm! they simper through browned teeth. Tastes delicious! Just like chocolate!

Go big! Worry about scaling! Hire a CEO! Take investment — here’s how! Don’t charge! Sell your company to a big company! Never mind that it’ll gobble you up, chew you up, and spit you out as so much gristle!

I’m not one of them

I won’t lie: I’m trying to sell you on an ideology, too. That’s what I’m doing right now, in fact. And I will try to sell you products. I make some pretty fucking awesome products.

But I will never try to sell you a shit sandwich. My whole raison d’etre is to eliminate the selling and eating of shit sandwiches.

I am tired of seeing smart, capable, motivated people derailed by the idea that they need a plan for liquidation. That they need VC. That they have to grow big, and that the only way to do that involves a poisonous four-letter word spelled F-R-E-E.

Wanna drop that shit sandwich? Here’s what you do

This is the backbone of the new religion you can install to replace that shit sandwich in mid-chomp:

The best business model in the world is the exchange of goods and services for money.

If you have to dream up monetization strategies, you’re doing it wrong. Wal-Mart’s board of directors does not sit around their big, shiny mahogany boardroom table and propose monetization strategies. We all hate on Wal-Mart, but you’ve got to admire their ability to turn a profit. Which they do by charging money for things.

Because you don’t monetize a business. A business has the exchange of goods & services for money baked in from the start. And it it’s baked in, the idea of monetization is moot.

Money is better than monetization.

It’s shorter. 
 It’s sweeter.

It’s easier to say.

And you can spend it.

Selling direct to your customers — providing value, solving problems — is one of the best highs there is. And it is a helluva lot more rewarding than trying to figure out how to fuel your car with your click-through rate.

That’s the ideology I hope you’ll adopt

Because, frankly, I want more people to see the light.

I want the world to be full of small, savvy, spunky businesses, like mine. Not for my ego’s sake, because I’m an arrogant SOB and I don’t need you to validate my choices. The one thing I don’t need in this world is to feel safe.

The icky, gooey bottom line is this:

It kicks total ass to work directly with your customers.

It kicks ass when you — designers, developers, writers, teachers — realize that you’ve had the power all along. That you can make your own products, that you don’t need a book contract, an angel investor, a gilded invitation, or even permission.

The fancy word for that is “disintermediation.” The not-so-fancy word for that is fucking awesome.

Now kwitcherbitchin, drop that shit sandwich, muster up your arrogance, and go forge yourself a business.

Create value. Charge money for it.


Change the world.

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    • amy

      Hey Zed! :)

      You know I’m the queen of giving away free content to drive traffic & sales. That forms the basis of my mini-empire ;) We even have a free plan for Freckle. But all that free (advertising) is geared at making sales. It’s deliberate free-ness that leads directly to getting paid.

      It’s a totally different thing to figure you’ll be the next Twitter, Delicious, Mint, etc. and hope to survive on ads until you get bought!

  1. azf

    To quote Philip Greenspun from the days before he did bite the shit sandwich, “we don’t have venture capital, we have money.”

    That’s where you want to be.

  2. Ronald Hobbs

    I would’ve signed up to your religion until I saw Max Klein on your recommended list.

    I read him often and I’ll read you often as well, as you both have good points, but you’re flirting with hypocrisy as Max by own admission peddles bull on his blog every so often.

    • amy

      I link to Max because he’s thought-provoking. The reasons are two-fold: 1) he’s totally upfront about it, 2) his usage of bullshit to game the “startup” communities is extremely entertaining (and interesting) to me. People who game any system, while telling you with a wink that they are gaming it, are fascinating. And they reveal how the system is broken.

      I make it a habit of studying people who succeed, whether or not I agree with their tactics. Then I judge for myself whether I want to emulate them, based on my own code of ethics. Especially shit-stirrers. I love shit-stirrers, even if I totally disagree with them.

  3. Antonio Cangiano

    Amy, I wholeheartedly agree with you. There is no such thing as free, somebody is always paying the bill directly or indirectly.

    When you said “The one thing I don’t need in this world is to feel safe.” you reminded me of a great quote:

    “A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd

  4. Ryan

    I think you can summarize this post in three succinct points:

    1. You can’t create value from thin air.

    2. People will pay for real value.

    3. Fuck the middle man.

  5. kahawe

    It kicks total ass to work directly with your customers.

    F*CK yea! Been there, done that and loved it. It is incredibly empowering and satisfying to do exactly that simple and direct kind of business, no bullshit-bingo, no ADHD bloggers.

  6. Florent Delannoy

    I really enjoy reading what you have to say, Amy, as much here as on the Cheerful Software Manifesto (more, more!). Anyone who loathes marketingspeak that much cannot be anything else than a great person.

    By the way, if you aim for maximum authenticity, add the hip frenchy accent to “raison d’être”. ;D

  7. John Gallagher

    Awesome, awesome post. I read this ages ago but re-reading now I’ve sold the first copy of my software product, I found myself mentally applauding at almost every paragraph.

    RIGHT ON, Sister Hoy!

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  9. Lynn Liukko

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