"John, tell me more about doing fast startups, you know, the ones I read about that get going in someone's kitchen, are wildly successful, worth billions overnight."
That's a very frequent request I have been hearing over recent years. From my Cornell University students and budding entrepreneurs.
It happens near the top of each boom-to-bust wave. Personal Computers. Dot-Com(Bomb). It's ancient history. Returned in a fresh form. Sounds new -- but isn't.
So what about doing a fast, "modern", startup?
Here is my response.
- It is easy to start a startup. It is very hard to succeed. You and I can get started in ten minutes. However, it is extremely hard to survive, let alone thrive.
- Getting cash is easy. Getting enough is very hard. Contests, incubators, checks (small) from angel investors seem easy. But how much in total will you need to succeed over five years?
- Contests to win small amouts of cash ruin your secret. Why tell the world about your great idea before launching your first product? It's dog eat dog in the real world, why let someone else in on your super idea?
- You can't do much with $25,000 from winning a startup competion. How many engineers can you hire? How close to launching your product or service will you be?
- Great startup investors put money into founders who are well prepared. They don't give the keys to one of their Ferraris to a teenager. "Give me a million dollars and let's see what happens" is not how they invest. Serial entrepreneurs come to venture investors ready with all the details in their heads for a complete plan on how they will succeed in the short and long run. That's how they became successful, serial entrepreneurs.
- Great, famous, startup icons did it the hard way. They took time, lots of it, to think before starting. Yes, even the ones you thought got started easily and quickly, and then succeeded wildly.
- Bloggers and the media are deceptive. You read and hear about stories of success that are made up by people. They only talk about the rare exceptions. They leave out all the hard stuff because entrepreneurs don't want that broadcast over Twitter. It's hard to get the hard stuff revealed.
BOTTOM LINE: Real entrepreneurs prepare will for a hard slog over years of unknown events. They are determined to succeed in the face of incredible opposition. They are realists. Have done their homework. Thought through masses of details. Closed ranks with a handful of outstanding people. And know they will have to change, morph, pivot, re-invent the first idea many times on the path to victory. That's how they succeed.
So if you are eager to get going, think I (and serial entrepreneurs and veteran venture investors) strongly recommend you through what I have suggested.
Then go talk with real entrepreneurs. They will (very privately) tell you about the hard stuff. What you hear will bring you into the real world of startups. All the rest is fantasy.
I wish you The Best on your Adventure!