Follow the Money

  • You shouldn’t feel comfortable with your meager little dreams.
  • You should do a startup.
  • You should chase the hockey stick.
  • You should go viral.
  • You should quit your job and work 90 hour weeks.
  • You should be prepared to have everyone think you’re crazy.
  • You should feel a manic, blind-eyed devotion to your Great Idea.
  • And if you don’t, well, you should use special terminology like “pivot”.
  • You should practice your elevator pitch.
  • You should work on your deck.
  • You should find a cofounder.
  • You should learn about angel rounds, Series A, B, C, bridge rounds, and convertible notes.
  • You should press the flesh.
  • You should hire a team. Write witty job postings on Craigslist. In code.
  • You should hire a CxO.
  • You should go big or go home.
  • You should experience a Liquidity Event.
  • You should go back to being an employee at the acquiring company.
  • You shouldn’t ask questions.

Well, well. Should you now?

When you’re bricked in on all sides by the same message, it’s time to ask yourself: Who benefits? Who benefits from all this feverish stumping for the magical healing powers of entrepreneurship? Who benefits from the chest-thumping rhetoric of freedom, when the idealized end is yet another fucking job?

In short: Where’s the money?

Find the money, and follow it.

It starts with venture capitalists and other people who bet on startups like they bet on horses. It ends with young people who’ve bought into the dream.

In the middle, it crosses through snake-oil salesmen. It touches journalists. It infects bloggers.

The same old myths about entrepreneurship, repeated, over and over, ad nauseum — repeated, shuffled, turned into top 10 lists, turned into a Cosmo quiz. “Are You a TRUE Entrepreneur?” “10 Signs Your Angel is Bored in the Boardroom” And like Cosmo, it begins as rah-rah troop rallying but ends in the poking of your deepest insecurities. Or as kindly, fatherly advice… from somebody who wants a part of you.

What is truly only one option begins to seem like the only option. It’s repeated so often, from so many different angles, that you start to believe it. It seems like common sense, like your own idea.

And that’s why it’s dangerous.

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Discussion

  1. Alan Wilensky

    Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.

    Amen. I want to write as many words as you so eloquently wrote about the f–ed up VC world, the power angels, and the idea that every Valley flipper that creates a social network for dogs, or a Hot or Not clone, is a combination CEo CFO Hiring manager, investment banker and life coach.

    I lived in the SF area and worked it like call girl till I got the message that my particular (blue collar) idea was not Facebook. And now, years later, working a not sane but real job, for a real small business that makes money providing real services….maybe I see now that I was lucky.

    Amy you are the Shizzle.

    Reply
  2. Thomas Wagner

    Amy, I appreciate your pragmatic way of looking at our industry. ( Software Dev etc). Thank you for keeping a critical eye open.

    Reply
  3. D.a. Thompson

    Remarkable and wonderful words, Amy. I have recently been regrouping my business strategy and at the sage advice of my IP attorney who has spent his lifetime in the due diligence of IP valuation: “Remove ‘exit strategy’ from your vocabulary and replace it with ‘profit earning.'”

    Reply
  4. Matt Rose

    A timely reminder that you’re always, always, working for somebody else. Your time is never your own, whether it’s bosses, VCs, Angels, or customers, the only time that is yours is the time you’re not working.

    Reply
  5. Daniel Crenna

    As a four year survivor of this infectious fervor, I’ve experienced the side of the fence where you’re trying to build a great product alone in a competitive environment where there are larger, well-funded teams working on the same problems. Not with the same passion for the problem space, but more equipped nonetheless. Passion is overrated. You can’t reach into your bag full of passion and find more time and money. Invariably, because I had subscribed to more than a few of these sentiments, I would fail to launch on time, effectively, or at all. I spent a few years in a caffeinated stupor trying to fight against competitors who were in fact supplying rainbows and unicorns to their users, testaments to the “scale first, monetize later” mantra. The reality is, you can’t compete on price when the competition is giving their stuff away for free, and you’re charging. So what’s left? The product. Which, I have the suspicion, when the dust settles, people will realize was the only thing that mattered to begin with.

    Reply
  6. Damien

    Amy, I think you might have single-handedly be responsible for my disillusionment of “startup” culture, and completely changed my direction (after having escaped freelance work). Thank you very much for being an outspoken example for the rest of us.

    Reply

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