Coming here from The Drama? This post is a reply to the drama, not the beginning of it. Justin’s post came first, after his podcast panel with me and Patrick McKenzie. Then the nasty comment quoted below, in re: Justin’s post. Then this blog post. Yup, how boring and lame is that? DRAMA LLAMA DING DONG. Wooo!
Make things. Help people. Be happy.
This is the heart of every message I put out there. The critical factor is that you ought to do what makes you happy, not what makes other people happy — because so often, ne’er the twain shall meet.
This is incredibly simple, uncontroversial advice.
There’s just one problem: it can be really fucking hard to even know what makes you happy when everywhere around you, you see only one, unified message.
In the tech world, that message is “startups.” And the concept of “startups” almost without fail comes part & parcel with some kind of funding. Pitching, seeking, signing contracts, giving out shares, building a board, having to please them as well as your customers, giving away part of your baby and part of your control — if not much of it.
But all that? It’s not the option. It’s only one of many options for making your own stuff & helping people.
One colossally, epically over-represented, and often incredibly miserable option.
There is another option. Hell, there are MANY other options.
That’s what I’m here to write about. Not VC. Not funding. Not “social startups.” Not lean startups.
I’m here to talk about making products and bootstrapping. Subscription software, subscription content, classes, screencasts, ebooks, white papers, reports… that’s what I’m interested in. That’s what I do. That’s what I love. That’s what makes me happy.
And This Is Why I’m Constantly Speaking Out
This is not a crazy, edgy message, people. It’s not outrageous to want to make things, help people, and be happy. It’s not ludicrous to want to get there under your own steam. It’s not revolutionary to want to create your own products, be beholden to no one, to be in full control of your products and your destiny.
These are not dangerous ideas.
So why does the “startup world” often treat them like they are?
But here’s what a prominent, self-dubbed technologist had to say in response to Justin’s article, which was based off ideas I named and promote, and which prominently linked to me:
I’m disappointed that this has gotten so many upvotes and positive comments.
There’s a middle ground between web application “lifestyle businesses” (like duping credulous customers into overpaying for a time-tracking tool styled with this month’s CSS trends) and trying to start the next Facebook.
There’s nothing wrong with being a small software company. People have been doing it for decades now. It’s boring, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Don’t expect anyone to celebrate you for doing it, though.
In case you’re new around here, my first SaaS is a beautiful time-tracking tool. And I poke the hornet’s nest, so this is what I get?
Here is somebody trying to tell me that I ought to do what makes him happy, not what makes me happy. And in the mean time, slagging the shit out of my work.
(Not to mention insinuating that my customers are stupid and can’t tell software that makes them happy from pretty colors.)
Pretty unbelievable, isn’t it?
If people are attacking such a fundamentally not-crazy, not-radical, not-harmful idea… you have to wonder what the hell else is going on.
Funding Makes Lots of People Miserable
In my line of work, I’ve met a lot of startup people. I’ve met quite a few who’ve had their startups yanked out from under them… who sold, only to watch their babies murdered… who built something they loved, only to end up employees once more at the acquiring company.
I’ve met people who’ve had their VCs and boards run their companies into the ground, replace them, force sales. I’ve met people who were had to “manage” their VCs so they did as little damage as possible, but who were miserable that they had to do so.
The more I promote the idea that you don’t need to try to boil the ocean or take funding to be happy, the more people write me privately to tell me that they support my message. That they wish they hadn’t taken VC and that next time, they sure as hell wouldn’t.
I won’t name names, because I didn’t ask permission first, but some of them are people whose names you know.
My goal in life is to make things, help people, and be happy. So I try to help other people be happy. For me, that means airing out the dirty laundry about the “startup” world… and promoting other ways of living & working.
If these simple, deeply mundane ideas make you feel challenged and insecure about what you do or what you want, make you feel like striking out, go back to Hacker News. Go read the 98% of tech media that supports your viewpoint.
In other words: Chill the fuck out, Dominant Paradigm. This is not for you.
And for the love of god, stop insulting people by labeling them “lifestyle businesses.” Your bitchy slip is showing.
Entreporn. Aside: yup, I called most of what was on Hacker News “entreporn” in this panel discussion with hosts Justin Vincent & Jason Roberts, and “bingo card guy” Patrick McKenzie.