Fuck Glory – Startups are One Long Con

I’m in my early 20s. Startups seem to be the only way out of 40 years of mediocrity in TPS-land for me, so I don’t really think I have much of a choice. It’s startups or nothing for me.

Or maybe I am being myopic? Are there more options to be had in life than mediocrity/wageslavery vs glory/startups?

Random HNer

Startups are glorious! So raw, so close to the bone, so mettle-testing: 100-hour work weeks, sleeping under your desk, ramen, putting it all on the line, changing the world.

You know what else is glorious?


“Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,” is one of the most famous lines from Horace. You’ve probably heard it. It means “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s fatherland.”

Here’s another one — drawn from Plutarch, allegedly said by Spartan women to their sons, as they gave the boys their shields before battle:

“Come home with your shield or on it.”

Come home with your shield — honorable, glorious — or die, for it is to better to die than to fail or disappoint.

Ancient times were all about glory. Glory’s not so big any more, but it used to be huge.

Glory was a way for fat old statesmen and generals, who never saw battle, to tempt young men to die by proxy for politics and petty schemes.

When glory failed to tempt, it was used to taunt, disdain, and guilt.

Or, as jwz puts it, “trying to make the point that the only path to success in the software industry is to work insane hours, sleep under your desk, and give up your one and only youth, and if you don’t do that, you’re a pussy.”

It’s about fucking time we talked about the fact that the worship of glorious death, and the startup mythos, are the same damn thing.

Every fucking time you see somebody using glory to hagiographize young men & women who are doing something clearly stupid, you must ask:

What is this raft of shit, and why are they trying to get me to paddle it?

And make no mistake, bartering away your “one and only youth” (jwz again) working 100-hour weeks on a web site for the promise of a big fat carrot on the end of a stick 80 million lines long, dangled by a fat statesm–excuse me, venture capitalist, who will make 3x or 10x or 100x more than you, in the vanishingly unlikely scenario that you “succeed”… is clearly stupid.

So what are the motivations of the people pushing glory — pardon me, startups?

Money. Follow the money. They want a piece of you. Investors have to have projects to invest in.

The more kids who buy into the crazy dream, the more racehorses the venture capitalists can bet on, the more little soldiers the VCs can set on the board. The harder those kids work, the more theoretical chances the VC has that of one of his many investments making it big.

The harder those kids work, the less they question.

Post-hoc justification kicks in the more pain you inflict on yourself — because obviously, if you’re so terrible to the person closest to you, you’ve got a good reason, right?

It must be worth it, right?

I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.

— General William Tecumseh Sherman

Remember, if you question it, you’re a pussy. Startups are hard. So work more, cry less, and quit all the whining.

You’ve lost your fucking shield so you might as well lay down and die.

Who are these crazy fuckers who say these things? What the hell do they get out of it?

But wait! Questioning a speaker’s motivations is an Ad Hominem Fallacy! Paul Graham says so in How to Disagree.

Oh, he did, did he? I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but isn’t that nice and pat?

As someone who has certainly studied rhetoric more than Paul Graham the Instant Expert, let me assure you:

Questioning a speaker’s motives is not only not a fallacy, it is a sign of healthy debate.

Otherwise you’re a wide-eyed sucker just waiting to be taken.

It’s especially critical to question the motives of the speaker whenever he urges you to glory, by tempting or guilting — and whenever he tries to sell you his religion.

You must be sharp, questioning, alert. You must be on your guard.

Inevitably — without fail! — those who sell glory, who sell religion, who sell noble wars, will not be in the trenches with you. They risk your skin instead of theirs.

And that, my friend, that is all you really need to know.

There is no Mojito Island. There is no pot of gold at the end of this evil rainbow of suffering. There is no Asgard. There are no 70 virgins.

When you die, however sweet and fitting, you are dead. As the Roman poet Marcus Valerius Martial wrote, “Glory paid to our ashes comes too late.” Glory paid to the ashes of your days, burnt and gone, comes too late.

Fuck glory.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori:
mors et fugacem persequitur virum
nec parcit inbellis iuventae
poplitibus timidove tergo.

How sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country:
Death pursues the man who flees,
spares not the hamstrings or cowardly backs
Of battle-shy youths.

Hi, I’m Amy. Like this? You’ll like the rest of what I’ve got to offer: philosophy, tough talk AND practical information on what to do about it. Follow me on Twitter!

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  1. Jason Langenauer

    I’m sure you’ll be aware since you’re quoting Horace, but Wilfred Owen quotes exactly those lines and almost exactly your argument in his poem “Dulce Et Decorum Est”:

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs And towards our distant rest began to trudge. Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

    Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime… Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

    In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,— My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.

    • Amy

      Yes. I hadn’t read the poem (tho I knew it existed) til I looked up the Latin today so I got the spelling right. (Turns out I had been saying it wrong all these years, c’est la vie).

      It’s one helluva poem.

    • Amy

      Ian, the alternative is what I’m ALL about. Poke around my blog. I promote a kind of bootstrapping — paid products only, and no selling to consumers (because consumers are a tarpit of despair and burning cash). That’s how my husband & I built our business… on the side, while consulting, til we weaned ourselves off consulting for good. Now we have a very nice life, at our own pace, making stuff we believe in, for customers who love it. :)

      • Tomas

        We’re doing exactly that: bootstrapping and selling to businesses. On the plus side, companies always pay. After 10 years of selling relatively inexpensive software, only one or two out of a global thousand have been impossible to cash from.

        The problem comes when you start chasing the big contracts. We’ve been working for almost 3 years on a logistics enterprise system and began to shop it around two years ago. After back and forth with a couple of clients and them showing plenty of interest, now is when one of them finally signed an agreement. They should’ve paid last October 27th but they take their time. My partner (from a separate entity) says that this is par for the course with large companies and that we should consider ourselves lucky for signing so quickly. Perhaps in a month, I’ll start feeling flush and look back to these travails as if they were nothing.

        I came to this article through @dhh but not everybody has a product (nor wants to write one) like theirs in which they can sell at low per-seat costs to large companies without any face-to-face contact. There is still a large market for old-fashioned corporate software sales and for that you either need to keep your costs ridiculously low or look for interests.


      • Amy

        Tomas, all this talk of “need”… if you choose to serve customers who are hard to reach, reluctant to buy, and slow to pay, whose responsibility is that? Those are choices, not destinies. “But not everybody has a product like theirs in which they can sell at a low per-seat costs to large companies without any face-to-face contact.” But you could choose to design your business that way.

  2. Naomi Niles

    Ha, this made me laugh. Us Americans in particular have a fondness for bragging about how much we work and how little sleep we get. Um…why?!

    After living several years in Spain, I learned a lot about downtime. Scheduling holidays to coincide with the weekend so you get extra days? Yes, please. That nice little mid-afternoon siesta? Yes, please. 5 hours eating lunch with the family on a Sunday? Yes, please.

    Still, there’s not much to be said about Spain’s productivity level. That’s a whole other story though.

    • Nick Shobe

      What I think is really said here is, make sure you question and evaluate your motives for “battle.” Glory is a poor motive for a fight, just as it is for a company or cause. However, some causes are worth 100 hour weeks and eating romen, but not for glory or money alone. I chose a career path that allows for balance between down time and hard efficient work. While I might not be revolutionizing the world, I am adding value to my community, which is better then glory and wealth.

      P.S. Amy, there are many great writers who curse occasionally, and many who do not. What remains true histories great writers convey their messages with an adeptness not seen most in writers of today. (Dickens,Dumas,Shakespeare,Tolstoy,Conan Doyle,Clemens,Austin…) large vocabularies ;)

      • Amy

        Nah, lots of great writers used simple words and made them strong & sinewy – Hemingway for example, and Dickens for another. Thoreau. Emerson. Whitman, who wrote:

        I like limber, lasting, fierce words. I like them applied to myself—and I like them in newspapers, courts, debates, Congress. Do you suppose the liberties and the brawn of These States have to do only with delicate lady-words? with gloved gentleman words? Bad presidents, bad judges, bad clients, bad editors, owners of slaves, and the long ranks of Northern political suckers (robbers, traitors, suborned), monopolists, infidels, . . . shaved persons, supplejacks, ecclesiastics, men not fond of women, women not fond of men, cry down the use of strong, cutting, beautiful rude words. [But] to the manly instincts of the People they will be forever welcome.
      • Naomi Niles

        Well, I’m with you there. I’ve worked 100 hour weeks and survived on ramen more times than I care to admit.

        Mainly though, I think bragging about such things as if they were a badge of honor is lame. Especially if you’ve got nothing good to show for it.

    • Amy

      Naomi, I think Americans have a hero complex of the first order. We also hate people who get things “they don’t deserve” and so we must show how much more deserving we are… how we never need help… blah de blah. It’s sick.

    • squirrel

      Still, there’s not much to be said about Spain’s productivity level. That’s a whole other story though.

      Productivity, so what?

      And productive of what anyway?

      They seem to be productive of 5 hour family dinners and R&R.

      Here in america we produce billionaires by kicking our excess productivity up the chain to them while working longer for less.

      (Real wages haven’t increased in 40 years, but productivity has gone up six fold. Guess where is all that wealth going?)

      See also: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/29/opinion/29krugman.html

  3. Michael

    Great fucking post. Don’t let anyone question your choice to swear. Encouraging developers to throw their lives and health away for a slim chance at a pay off deserves all the swearing your can manage.

    • Dave Churchville

      I have to admit – it’s a little puzzling why so much attention is being paid to a few swear words (which in my opinion, are used with a purpose in this post, not gratuitously), when the overall message is so much more comment-worthy.

      Plus, I’m pretty sure there’s a writing rule that says you get to use 10 swear words for each use of ” hagiographize” in a sentence.

      • Amy

        Dave, who knows! Your “hagiographical” line… nearly made me snort my gatorade. Thanks. :) (AND I quoted Latin and talked about rhetoric vs dialectic. I WIN THE INTERNET.)

    • Mrs. Propriety

      Why are there so many concern trolls on this blog complaining about cursing? This woman makes a blazingly accurate and relevant post regarding the infuriating ridiculousness of the US startup/con meat grinder, and all you can do is tut-tut her because she uses a few salty words.

      Well then all I can say is welcome to the Internet, assholes. Oh, and please, in the most polite and proper way possible, go fuck yourselves.

      • Amy

        Thanks, Mrs! :)

        Fun fact: Original title of this blog post started with “Startup Meat Grinder.” I was going to make a force-feeding fat geese joke. Decided to simplify.

    • Adam

      You failed to use a comma before a conjunction that joins two independent clauses, and that is not fucking done by good writers.

  4. Yatima

    It’s not only startups, although they’re certainly a key component of the long con. Our oligarchic plutocracy depends on the illusion that anyone can win the lottery, hit the IPO jackpot or Wal-Mart themselves into great wealth through sheer bootstraps, character and graft; when in fact, almost no one will.

    The lightning-struck exceptions – Sam Walton, Steve Jobs – are paraded before us as exemplary human beings. Our failure to be struck by lightning is attributed to our lack of character. Fox News, American Idol, aspirational magazines and the advertising industry all frantically collude in the lie.

    Nothing’s going to change until we correctly identify the rich as hoarders of money, get them support for their tragic mental illness (in the form of progressive taxation, estate duties and a revivified public realm) and return societal approbation to the people who actually deserve it: schoolteachers, nurses, firefighters, librarians, mechanics, woodworkers, small farmers, cooks, local businesspeople, systems administrators…

    • Amy

      Yatima, the problem with sweeping statements like yours is that these delusions are “pull” — people WANT to hear it, they WANT to believe it, they BEG for rich people to be portrayed that way. It’s their way of lying to themselves.

      This is not being enforced from the top. It’s all from the bottom.

  5. CWebba1

    Oh you go girl! You go go go! I so agree with your sentiment. Say “no”, as well, to Internships as well. Internships have less glory even than start-up. And favors for friends – you love your job, right? You can just whip this thingie right out. Champ. . . . . We don’t have much money but can you do this one little thing? We need it by 6 PM tonight.

  6. MotownJoe

    This is a damn-fine piece of writing, but you already knew that. IMHO, part of what makes it so fine IS the language. It fits the subject matter.

    If this were a piece questioning the tradition of doctors in residency working crazy hours at a hospital, it would have probably been out-of-step with the situation.

    For IT folks in startup situations, with a lot of high-risk/high-reward emotion on the line, I think the language accentuates the piece not in a way that is intended to shock the reader but a) with how some of the participants speak and b) it reflects the rightful indignation of someone who has concluded that it is the scam that it is.

  7. Dave Kennedy

    I wish you had written this 5 years ago where as a fresh young, naive dev I burned out in the trenches while the VCs sat in the ivory tower scoffing at how “WE are not getting enough done, WE have to be flexible (work longer)”. Of course We was me.

    I finally woke up and left, still bitter and full of contempt for these bastards and shall never ride the “shit raft” as you so eloquently put it, again.

    As for all the swear police in the comments I cannot put it any better than national fucking treasure Stephen Fry:


  8. HK

    Internships are pretty much the only way to get into proper design / architecture jobs. Take them out of the equation and finding work, gaining experience to do said work, would be nigh on impossible.

    Most startups I know pay well, don’t make crazy demands of their staff. I’ve seen plenty crash and burn (from the safety of my retreated freelance existence) and a few make it big.

    Maybe, don’t get involved with a startup run by utterly clueless cunts would be a nice piece of advice?

    • Amy

      HK, all you see when you read startup “media” (tabloids) is:

      • work crazy hours
      • JACK works TWO eight-hour days back to back every day! ZOMG!
      • work hard! work hard! work harder! otherwise there’ll be somebody who’ll work harder than you and they’ll win and you’ll lose cuz you’re lazy! (saw this just yesterday on HN, and believe me, I’m not exaggerating)

      So no. I won’t write “reasonable” essays in response to such unreasonable, punishing, evil crap.

  9. Sheldon Hearn

    There is hope, and I think you’re being myopic. My current employer employs over 100 employees, occupies multiple wings of an office park, and yet still has all the enthusiasm and some of the agility of a startup.

    We don’t do TPS. Just produce, inspect and adapt. :-)

  10. Grigory

    Fuck Hacker News. I’ll call it Fucker News from now on. Lamer News (yes, it’s a real site) has a lot more to do with hacking than H…Fucker News.

    I wonder why the startup folks look at the “big guys” instead of companies who provide services they use… 37signals. GitHub. Wildbit. Ordered List. Fusion Ads. How much VC funding did they all take? Zero, dammit.

    • Amy

      THAT’S a very good question. The answer is probably because they’re too blind to see the successes all around them.

    • Jonathan Nelson

      I’m in the middle of the startup whirl wind, and completely boot strapped. Just watched a video a few nights ago on the history of Silicon Valley. It was produced in the 1996.

      Other startups that started without VC:

      Intuit, Oracle, Atari, Apple.

      May I add that Hacker News, Tech Crunch and Y Combinator are a very small part of all of startup-dom and Silicon Valley itself.

  11. skroah

    Nice, loved it. Here’s another fitting tribute to the piled up bones of young people, wherever they get ground up.

    Here dead we lie
    Because we did not choose
    To live and shame the land
    From which we sprung.
    Life, to be sure, 
    Is nothing much to lose,
    But young men think it is,
    And we were young.
    A E Housman
  12. Erik

    Brilliant article, spot on. And if the language is a bit harsh, so is the topic. Those with sensitive eyes can read elsewhere.

  13. Richard Speigal

    Fab post! Very entertaining even though I have no bloody idea what it’s about. A long, long time ago in a life far, far away I started a business. I worked 500 hours a day and got no investment. And 10 years later I have a nice firm, pretty comfortable income and no boss.

    Dang right I wish I’d got more glory though.

    • Amy

      Richard, haha, glad you enjoyed it even if you didn’t know what it was about. The thing about glory is that it’s a myth. What glory do the startup kids get? A feature on TechCrunch? Doubt that keeps them warm (and fed) at night.

    • Amy

      Hey dude, welcome to 5 minutes of internet fame ;)

      I read your post. Are you really sure that glory is on your list? Because the thing about glory is that it’s a myth. There’s no such thing.

      Either way, good luck.

    • Amy

      Nope. I created my class out of anger — I was angry that so many smart people (many of them my friends!) were being misled.

      I open it twice a year. It always sells out. I don’t really have to promote it because the number of referrals I get from past students is insane. This time around, for example, I’ve got 3 sets of people where Person A took it the first time and then invited Person B to take it with them the second time. (Because, get this, I give access to alumni forever.)

      It’s not for sale now, it’s not my main business, I give away a lot of my content, and I’m not even trying to get your email address.

      Compare me to a venture capitalist. I am clean as a whistle.

  14. room34

    This is a great post. (A great fucking post, if you prefer.)

    I’ve been dancing around this issue for years, quit jobs because of it without actually naming it, and now Arrington, of all people, comes along and spells it out perfectly. Of course, he’s advocating exactly what I dislike most!

    Your post (and a few others) was an inspiration for me to finally tell my story on my blog. http://blog.room34.com/archives/4781 I’ve been freelancing for 3 years, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

  15. Naomi Niles

    Sorry, I couldn’t help but add another comment since this has me thinking a lot.

    My husband was telling me about an innovative idea he has this morning. And he said, “But, it’ll be A LOT of hard work”.

    I told him, “So, what?. It’s worth doing or it isn’t.” Doesn’t matter how much or how little work it is. We’re focusing on the wrong thing. It’s as if more hours validated the work.

    What if you had the best idea ever that changed the world for better and it took 5 minutes to execute? Would that make it any less valuable?

    Or, what if you just enjoy sitting watching the wheels go round and round? What’s wrong with that?

    Also, I haven’t liked Mike Arrington since he put Rachel Cunliffe’s redesign for TechCrunch up to public scrutiny and allowing a random reader to submit another design against hers.

    Me? I don’t keep grudges. LOL!

  16. Ollie

    I’m a 47 yr-old who is going down the start up route. For the last 20 years of my professional life I have been training up for what I am now undertaking. I have never had a salary, always freelanced since graduation. Start ups are fantastic – I have total clarity.

    I’m no wide-eyed sucker, nor will I be working 100hr weeks. Your blog screams loudly, and wants to appeal to the general malaise, but there’s little real content other than railing off at so-called ‘fat venture capitalists’ and vague allusions to an education via citation of a few Latin phrases. Now berate me to make yourself feel better.

    • JC McCormick

      This article articulates something that I’ve been trying to say for a little over a year now – the sensationalism of the “startup” route is an empty promise of glory.

      By that calcifying premise alone, the article factually has content – in this case, the content is an assertion of the dangers of doing something for a profiteer instead of yourself.

      When you yourself are the source of the revenue, the creator of the business, buying into investor-owned hype is self-destructive.

      If you have the skills to generate revenue, you do not need to pander to investors to be successful – the work itself (often not as much as you’re told) should do the trick. All you have to do is 1) the work itself, 2) charge money for it.

      If you paid much attention to Amy’s writings, you’d probably “get it”. But, you don’t seem to, which indicates to me that you haven’t done much reading here.

      It sounds like you’re trying to pick a fight, honestly.

  17. Tony

    This writing resonates with me. Keep it up. I almost never see this type of vivacity and anger – I’m floored.

  18. CharlesD

    Did I read a different article to every other fucker on here? Way to go Amy you wrote some Latin, crow bared it into context , then told us what veryone already knew.

    Your list of comment kissups puts bile in my mouth, but if you are happy taking praise from the subs then fair play, keep up the good work.

    What irks me the most is probably when someone challenges your views, your attitude totally stinks… but not nearly as bad as your writing or cliche views.

    • david

      right, everyone already knew it, but most had no words for it. that’s a good reason for someone to write things — to give people words for what they already felt.

      i doubt she wrote it to get praise, though that would be pretty ironic given the title and point of the article. FUCK GLORY! SHOWER ME WITH PRAISE THAT I MAY BASK IN THE GLORY OF IT

      • Amy

        Weeeelll, David, I do like basking… in riches… also in warm tropical sunshine… and sometimes in retweets… but yeah. There was no hidden bribe where I offered to send moneys and chocolates to those who praised my little polemic ;)

    • Amy

      Aww, my blog made you throw up a little in your mouth? Excellent!

      Nobody has “challenged” me. They’ve just left drive-by insults like yours: no content. If anyone cares to have an intelligent debate, I’m all for it. Sadly all my “opponents” can come up with is mouth-frothing anger. Or is that bile?

  19. Ryan Du Bois

    I’m not sure if someone has pointed this out yet, but this is not quite correctly interpretted:

    “Come home with your shield or on it.”

    Come home with your shield — honorable, glorious — or die, for you will be without honor, and without glory.

    This saying has the following roots: In battle, when an army (of the time) would retreat, they would all drop their shields and run. The saying basically means come home with your shields (because you won, killed all the enemies), or on it (meaning you lost, but at least you didn’t run screaming like a little boy).

    Sources: http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=159867

    • Amy

      The top answer to that question on Google Answers still says:

      “either carrying his shield or being carried upon it after falling in battle.”

      By “falling” they mean “dead.” So either come back victorious, or dead. That’s exactly what I meant.

      I could see how that sentence would be a little ambiguous. I meant “come back with your shield” as in alive, not “if you lose your shield, die” kinda thing.

      • MikeG

        Why the hostility for “the man”? Sounds like OWS communist drivel.

        One day, if you had a successful start-up, you could be “the man” – employing hundreds if not thousands – does that make you bad?

        This is not to say there aren’t poorly run companies, nepotism, Peter-principle factors and other “non-linearities”, but let’s not simply throw all employers out with the trash.

      • Amy

        One, you’re a moron. “OWS communist drivel”? Please. The current state of the American economy isn’t capitalist, it’s protectionist and corporatist. Take your room temperature IQ elsewhere, kplztnxbai.

        Now, if I were to assume you were a real human being, and address the potentially SANE parts of what you wrote…

        Where on earth did I say I was talking about employers?

        Here’s the bottom line: People in the creative industries don’t have to be employees if they don’t want to. They can create and sell their own products. The world would be much better filled with many little businesses — where the makers get to interact directly with, and know, their customers, and vice versa. Weak social ties are important. You cannot have a social tie, no matter how weak, with a corporation.

        More importantly, when you make and sell products, you build assets for yourself — and assets, not a high hourly rate, is what creates wealth, because assets keep working for you even while you’re asleep. And that helps create freedom, too.

        I work fewer hours and earn far more than the average person with my skill set. Most importantly, when I was sick for 3 mos and couldn’t work AT ALL… the money kept coming in. Nobody could fire me. Nobody could take away my assets.

        If people tell me they like their jobs, I congratulate them. But they’re not the kind of people who read my essays, see? Because it’s not for them.

  20. Amin

    I could just as easily argue that working for the ‘man’ in a 9 to 5 job is encouraged by the fat cat statesmen and corporate shareholders who need reliable workers.

    • Amy

      When you work for “the man” you get paid. Most importantly, sure you COULD argue that, but A) everyone already believes it, and B) nobody here is arguing FOR employment.

      • Amin

        What alternative is there to employment? No one WANTS to work, but working is the only way survive and to attain acquire wealth to be able to live comfortably without working. The question is, is it easier to achieve that working for someone, or working on your own business.

      • Radek


        I liked your comment above (to which I could not reply btw) even more than the article itself. I like your mindset and your view point.

        best, Radek

        P.S. You are somewhat incorrect saying in the earlier comment that you do not even want emails, the reply form in this discussion forum requires the email.

  21. Nick Adair

    I just did a presentation on a similar subject for my business rhetoric class (yes, it’s just as ridiculous as it sounds). My argument was that the old notion that “do what you love, and the money will follow” has suckered many unprepared people into starting their own businesses. I used the coffeeshop dilemma as pointed out by Rob Fitzpatrick (http://thestartuptoolkit.com/blog/2011/10/the_coffeeshop_fallacy/) as an example of how dangerous it is to believe such nonsense. Reading your post just reinforces that idea; thanks!

    • Amy

      Nick, agree with you on “do what you love.”

      Funny you should mention that. Before Rob wrote his essay, I wrote on that looks shall we say, suspiciously familiar — and it made it to HN (again, before his) so I do wonder.


      That said, I’m doing what I love. One of the things I love. The thing I love which is most likely to actually make me the money I want to make, and decided after lots of thinking, experimenting, and deliberate practice.

      There’s no reason you can’t do what you love AND make a lot of money. But it’s dumb to think A leads to B.

  22. Nathalie Lussier

    I think developers and “builders” everywhere just heaved a huge sigh fo relief.

    You were able to describe the situation in perfect clarity and with such oomph, and I’m SO excited that people are getting riled up from your post.

    You know I’m a huge fan of products too, and you’ve just reconfirmed my choices and decisions a hundred times over. Thank you for being such a rocking female business owner example, and for being so damn honest. We need more unicorn-free thinkers like you. I can’t wait to read your book. :)

  23. David Semeria

    You like quotations Amy? Here’s a quotation for you:

    Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to

    All the tools you used to write your post were built by people who shared the goals and values you so deplore.

    • Amy

      Wow! I don’t even know how to respond to this. You quote a movie at me? Of a pep talk justifying war? You are really on the wrong blog. Sorry your reading comprehension wasn’t up to snuff :(

  24. TheExplorer


    I learned a lot about the reality behind startup / VC world from your blog and now glad to extend my thanks for openly spelling out what many in this domain do not want to admit. I have no probs with your cursing either. PLS keep up the good work.

  25. TheExplorer


    I learned a lot about the reality behind startup / VC world from your blog and now glad to extend my thanks for openly spelling out what many in this domain do not want to admit. I have no probs with your cursing either. PLS keep up the good work…

  26. PaulJH

    Love this article. Living in one of the top start-up cities in North America (Waterloo), I always hear about start-ups and how wonderful and great they are. All roses apparently… but of course their are a HUGE HUGE downsides.

  27. Milan

    I was always wondering if people who are putting in that many hours actually find the problem they are solving meaningful enough, or they were just brainwashed believing that that is is the right and only way to go (or just seeing it as the only alternative to corporate employment). If former is true, then maybe I would be able to understand it but in my opinion a lot of startups are solving non existing problems (desperately trying to find a market for it), solving the problem already solved, or in the process of being solved, and first world problems, when they are much more important issues to be solved, just because money is a bigger drive than making the world a better place. Idk maybe I’m just being negative… What do you think Amy?

  28. Marcell Monteiro

    You have a point here, buy you was very extremist, the world is not that black and white so you shouldn’t put things that way, there’s a lot of great startups out there and there’s a lot of people who work on something that they love because they know is meaningful, be reasonable and fair.

  29. Marcell Monteiro

    There’s another thing i wanna add, you tell your side of the history like it was the only truth, some people wanna die in battle, some people wanna work 100 hours a week, in what way can you reason against it without resourcing to your personal view of life, if you value more your friends, family and enjoying the moment, that’s great “for you”, don’t assume everyone thinks the same or wants the same.

    • Amy Hoy

      Yes, there are people who “want” to die in battle. Why do they “want” that? Did you read the essay? Because the whole thing is about why somebody would “want” to do something so fruitless and idiotic.

      “Wants” are not above criticism, either. They also come from somewhere.

  30. Lanette Creamer

    This reminds me of going to an amazing presentation by Karen Johnson about using a test strategy rather than a pointless test plan, and some jackwagon left her a comment that she was rude to present wearing JEANS?

    Then I presented that endless companies are hiring testers without ANY testing skills, for coding that they NEVER do in the job. I got scathing comments for saying that it was “crappy”. (see I cursed and that was SO unladylike).

    It never ceases to piss me off how shallow some people are. Thank you for the CONTENT of your post. How you said it is such a small matter. That you said it at all is the part that takes courage. Don’t doubt for a second that your gender is a huge reason why your cursing is being criticized so much. Fuck that.

    • Amy Hoy

      Hi Lanette, thanks for your support.

      Thing is, when anybody says stuff like this, there will be people who want to dismiss it. Why? Their ego, their identity, their dreams are threatened. STARTUPS. So many feelings.

      These people will attempt to discredit the author — however they can. They’ll seize on whatever’s handy.

      I don’t think people genuinely care about cursing or clothing. That is just the tool they USE to discredit somebody. If you look around on technical blogs etc. written by men, you’ll see the same asshats.

      My husband gets tons of hate for what he does and he’s a dude.

      Viewing it thru the lens of “because I’m a woman” isn’t helpful because it yet again turns it around on me. But nope. It’s not me. It’s not cuz I’m fat or have green hair or dress like a slob.

      It’s cuz the commenters are douchetards grasping at straws.

  31. Larry Cummings

    I spent 5 years of my “one and only youth” making a living outside of tech so I could expand my horizons outside of just being a super strong strategist and technologist. Interestingly I worked harder than I ever would work on a start up because it was by design entirely my idea and for me.

    That inoculated me from the “glory” trap you so powerfully illuminate here. I really enjoy that you wrote this so well and so passionately. In my experience you can really only inoculate yourself from the empty promise of start up glory by making executing your own “way” your top priority.

    Ironically, my (substantial) time commitments on projects in start ups is sometimes lifted up as an example to other team members of how much commitment they need to have “because we’re a start up.” and it always felt wrong. After reading this I want to just go back in time and say:

    I’m not putting in crazy hours because it’s a start up, I’m doing it because right now I’m very passionate about what we’re doing together and I feel I’m fairly compensated for the work.

    But to say that anyone else should work as hard as I do because it’s a start up is to completely misrepresent why I work so hard. I’m doing this for me and my family.

    If those parameters were met in corporate job, or as non-profit volunteer I’d work exactly the same way.


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