300: The Startup Bus Fallacy
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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about casually starting businesses and riding the wave of circumstance, when you are not emotionally invested in the idea.
They highlight the difference, between having fun and enjoying your startup. Defining that a successful startup is focused on sustainability, focus and hard work.
Running a startup is not easy, and a successful startup cannot be quickly achieved. So when investing your time into a new idea, you should be passionate about it and willing to commit to it fully. With full awareness of all of the effort, highs, lows and challenges that running a business brings. The difference between investing your time wisely and successfully running a startup often is about managing your startup psychology, from the beginning.
Tune into this week’s episode of The Startup Chat, to look at how to avoid falling into the trap of starting something that is fun but doesn’t have your full commitment. As well as Steli and Hiten’s top tips for running a successful startup that you enjoy.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
00:27 What is the Start up Bus fallacy?.
04:57 Start up advice.
05:29 Why the idea of fun and Startup do not mix.
06:41 The good reasons to create a Startup.
07:42 An example of the seriousness of your decision to begin.
08:11 The false momentum.
10:53 The danger of casual commitment.
11:14 The definition of a casual commitment.
11:35 Tips for Startup mindset.
12:14 The benefits of the right mindset.
3 Key Points:
- If you want to be involved in a startup for fun; go to work at someone else’s start up, you will have more fun.
- It should be something that you enjoy, but that is not necessarily fun.
- To begin, should not be a casual or opportunistic proposition.
Steli: Hey, everybody, this is Steli Efti.
Hiten: And this is Hiten Shah.
Steli: And in today’s episode of the Sunup Chat, I want to talk about the “startup bus fallacy”.
Hiten: We like talking about more than just sales and marketing.
Steli: We just want to bullshit and chat about business and life, and hopefully while we’re doing that, provide a lot of value to people.
Hiten: The world’s best business podcast.
Steli: Oh. Shit. Shit, we got it.
Hiten: For people trying to get shit done.
Steli: Done, yeah. We don’t want to give you feedback that’s bullshit.
Hiten: We want you to do your best.
Steli: This is a term I just came up with just before we took with the call. We might rebrand this, but here’s what I mean and what I want to talk about with you today Hiten. So I’ve had a number of conversations recently, the past week or so, with friends of mine that have been founders of startups that started off as like fun little projects. Things they were not that passionate about, things that seem to be just fun. They were very non-committal in the early days, or they were interested about the project because of certain factors. But they knew when they started, they knew I’m just gonna do this for a little while, but this is not really what I want to do long term. And then “life happened”, that little thing became bigger, and there were investors involved and advisors and a team and commitments, and months passed by, and years passed by, and all of a sudden … They had some highs, they had some lows, and now it’s like, I don’t know, two years, three years, four years later, they’re struggling. They don’t really enjoy it that much, and thinking back, they never really wanted to do this thing, but because they’re now so invested in it, they … It’s a recurring theme that I hear from them, I’m just gonna help this get through this crisis, and then I’m gonna think about something else, or I’m just gonna wait and see what’s gonna happen now that we had this bridge financing or this crisis financing and see what happens. Or, I just want to see this so that hopefully we can get to an acquisition and then I can do something else. And it brought up this idea that how dangerous it is sometimes as an entrepreneur and as a startup founder to work on something, thinking you’re not gonna be that committed to it and you’re just having fun, and you’re just gonna try this out, and you can stop at any time. Because just like anything, once it builds momentum, once you’ve invested, and you feel invested in something, every single day becomes harder and harder to break up, and all of a sudden you’ve wasted potentially, four, five, six, seven years of your life. So I don’t know, I just wanted to talk about this idea of like being careful on choosing fun projects if you’re not really committed to them or figuring out ways exit strategies that are much better than having no exit strategy when you start working on something that you might not really want. And the reason why I called it the Startup Bus Fallacy is because there’s a prominent example. This has nothing to do with the people I talked with in the last week, but a very good friend of mine and somebody that had worked with clothes, had left clothes for many years, and I was trying to recruit him over a really long time to get him back, and then finally came back. He’s a prime example of this because he did a fun like Startup Bus experience where they go from, whatever, New York to Austin and then they present a little idea that a thrown together team on the bus came up with, kind of like a startup weekend but on a bus somewhere to an event. He was on a Startup Bus, and there was this cool little group, and they came up with this cool little idea, and they created all this traction, and it was so much fun, and they win the thing, it’s south by southwest, and they get accepted to tech stars, and all along it’s like, well, shit I didn’t want to do this. I’m having a really awesome job, but I’m gonna leave and do this startup thing, because tech sources are big opportunity. We’re getting all this press, and we might get investment, and I’m just gonna ride this and see what happens. I’m just gonna be opportunistic and have fun with it. And that little fun thing, I don’t really care that much about this idea, but I’m just gonna see what happens. That little thing turned into a three or four year project with many lows, many highs, but even more lows, and at the end it didn’t work out. And so hence why the Startup Bus Fallacy, or startup weekend fallacy … It’s like you’re just starting with this little thing and it gains a bit of momentum and you’re like ah, I’m just gonna see what happens. And all of a sudden, four or five years of your life are over, and you’re still working on something that you truly, you don’t really love, or you’re not that passionate about. So I just wanted to share this, see what your reaction is and see if we can go have some, I don’t know, practical advice to people on how to make sure they don’t fall into that trap of starting something that’s fun and has some natural momentum and end up working on something for way longer than they wanted and often times maybe also not that successfully.
Hiten: Yeah, if you’re gonna do a startup for fun, then go work at someone else’s startup.
Hiten: You’re gonna have way more fun, and you’re gonna learn a lot more.
Steli: This the … Let me pause you, because this is the quote of the day. If you want to have fun working at a startup, don’t start your own. Just go work for somebody else, and you’re gonna have way more fun with it. It’s so true, oh my God. This is so true.
Hiten: I mean that’s just what it boils down to. So anybody that says fun and startup gives me pause in the first place especially if they’re saying oh I’m gonna start it and found it. I totally get Startup Bus. I totally love the idea that people can start companies within hours like that, or not companies, sorry. Create something within hours like that. But really the company is what matters. The business is what matters, and people who even just raise like a few hundred thousand dollars didn’t do Startup Bus, and are doing it for fun, they should just stop. I don’t want to say this is real life, because what is real life, but this is real. This is what you’re doing. If you’re doing it for fun, then there’s way better ways to have fun and make money. Seriously, like buy a club or do something. Don’t go do a business, don’t do a startup, don’t go to Startup Bus and come out with some idea and win and think that you’re having fun. And the thing is, I get the Startup Bus attitude. It started with fun, so now we’re gonna have fun. But no real business was built with fun. I’m sorry, I don’t care what stories people tell or anything like that. This shit ain’t fun. Right? It should be something that you enjoy, but that’s not necessarily fun. And I think you should enjoy the learning. You should enjoy this idea that you can create a business from nothing. All those things are super enjoyable. But if you’re having fun, you’re just gonna do this for fun, it’s probably not gonna end well. And eventually you’re not gonna have fun. And the ups and downs are not manageable if you’re doing it for fun. If you’re doing it because there’s nothing better for you to do, and you really want to do it, and you want to build a business, and you don’t really want to work for anyone else, and all those kinds of things, those are much better aligned reasons why you should be doing this. Not because you’re just having fun. A startup is not fuckin’ fun. Like it’s just not. It shouldn’t even be glorified. It shouldn’t even be something that most people think about doing. So if you want to have fun, go work for someone else.
Steli: I love it, and as you said, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be fulfilling or enjoyable or exciting or exhilarating or so many great things. But just like you would probably take exception with somebody saying, well I’m just going to start a family to have some fun. I’m gonna have some children because I think it could be a lot of fun. I’m just in it for the fun of it. You’d be like, whoa, slow down, it comes with a lot of responsibility, and comes with a lot of challenge and sacrifice. It comes also with a lot of beautiful things. But it’s not like a fun thing. The fun aspect you nailed. So let’s put a check on that. There’s just one more aspect I want to touch before we wrap this episode up. Which is the, I don’t even know how to call this, the momentum aspect. Some people, they’ll start something, and there are examples of side projects that grow into really large businesses or things that people didn’t do because they thought necessarily they want to commit themselves to this project or this company or this ideal product of their life, but then the thing grew and had tremendous success. Larry Ellison from Oracle famously just wanted to make a little bit of side income without working too hard, and it turned into a massive business market. Zuckerberg did this in the beginning not to rule the world and all the inhabitants of the planet. It’s not that you can’t have a side project that turns into a real business or a fun hobby that turns into something bigger than you expected. That’s not the point. But sometimes, the worst cases that I’ve observed when it comes to this momentum trap of I worked on this, and because it has so much momentum, I’m just gonna keep riding the wave and see where it leads me. The examples that I have that haven’t worked out, that momentum was not customer momentum. That momentum was not virality user explosion and growth, that momentum was not wow, we stumbled over a product that’s really doing something and people respond really strongly to it. That momentum usually was funding momentum. Wow, we got offered … Somebody I knew worked on this project, I wanted to help, and he or she got a million dollar offer from some really great VC fund, were accepted into accelerator or raised a really great angel round and asked me to be a co=founder, and I thought, wow shit, there is all this money, all these investors. That investor momentum, press … The project seemed to have all these positive things associated with it that then made one person commit to becoming a co-founder of it, but that was the only reason. It was not that they were passionate about the project, not even necessarily that they wanted to work with this person, but with the team, saying this team is exceptional. I just want to do shit with those people. No, it was like shit, these people got a huge check offered to them, or just got accepted into this incredible incubator, and I want to experience that incubator, or I want to experience being part of a funded one million dollar startup. So I’m just gonna say yes and join them. It’s that … I don’t know if you call it bad momentum or whatever. It’s these kind of, for me, poor reasons to say, I don’t care that much about what they’re trying to do, but they have so much, whatever, things going on for them that I’m just going to join and commit casually to this. And as I said, this casual commitment, you blink twice, and four years of your life have passed by, and you’re still working on this thing.
Hiten: I like what you said about how there shouldn’t be a casual commitment. Because even when you have a side hustle or a hobby, it’s not a casual commitment. It’s just not. A casual commitment is like let’s go watch a movie. Right? A casual commitment is let’s order pizza and just watch Netflix or whatever. Those are casual commitments in general. I think that’s probably a good way to put it, which is like you’re looking to avoid these casual commitments where starting a business and when you’re doing a startup. You want to make sure that essentially, you’re all in, even mentally, and you’re not thinking that this is just for fun. And so I think that’s the problem with using the word fun and startup or business as a founder. It’s like you should realize that you’re not doing this for fun. You’re doing this because you want to build a business. And again it’s not just Startup Bus or anything like that. It’s like even founders that the money comes easy just because they know people or they can get angel investment or whatever, or even they have a side project that starts working, and they’re like I’m just gonna keep doing it, but it’s gonna be fun. I don’t want anyone to be deceived when they get into this stuff. It’s not about fun. It’s about the enjoyment you get, the thrill you get out of building the business, heading towards a sustainable, profitable growing business. I think when you put fun into the equation, sometimes you forget that it’s not always fun.
Steli: I love it. All right, with those last famous words, we’re gonna wrap this episode up. Yeah, have fun, go work at another person’s startup, be casually committed by picking up some really tasty slice of pizza, but when you start working at a startup as a … When you commit yourself as a co-founder or funding member of a company, take a moment to take this seriously and don’t just be opportunistic or casual about it, because it’s not a casual or opportunistic proposition. At least it shouldn’t be. All right, that’s it from us for this episode. We’ll be here very soon.