Startupism 101: Lessons learned covering the ecosystem

 
Startupism 101: Lessons learned covering the ecosystemYES, I know there is no such word and it is destined for the lexicological wastebin, but ‘startupism’ will suffice for this article.
 
Having been through a week of prescription drug-induced haze, the least I can do to restore the cosmic (or karmic) balance is to give back to the ecosystem a bit of what it has so generously given me.
 
Some of what you read here, I’ve written about previously, but I thought it would be helpful to gather it all in one place.
 
Oh yes, this is going to be a rant.
 
1) Kool-Aid is no substitute for revenue.
 
2) It may be old-fashioned, but building a sustainable business is more important than building a business from which you can exit.
 
3) And yes, ‘exit’ here includes an IPO (initial public offering).
 
4) If your business model is built on getting the next round of funding, then you have no business model.
 
5) Yes, I know many ‘successful’ startups have done just that, but that well is drying up.
 
6) If your user-acquisition is dependent on media coverage, then you don’t have a compelling product or service. Best work on that.
 
7) A journalist cannot be an ecosystem evangelist; those who are, are betraying their profession.
 
8) That doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for such evangelists either. Bloggers who evangelise have an important role to play too.
 
9) There may be some startups that truly want to change the world; yet another e-commerce platform or on-demand commercial service is not the way to do it.
 
10) That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t embark on such ventures, just don’t pretend you’re doing it for humanity.
 
11) If you’re using Ayn Rand’s writings as your inspiration, you really need to do some research on her. Hints: Robber-barons; the anti-competitive practices of IBM and Microsoft in the days of yore; the sub-prime loan crisis; Donald Trump.
 
12) While it can serve some purpose, the more time your CEO (chief executive officer) spends ‘networking,’ the less time he or she spends running the company.
 
13) Unless it’s very early days and your startup is still licking the placenta off its surface, your startup should not be synonymous with its founder/ CEO.
 
14) Many times, it actually isn’t, but … PR!
 
15) You don’t need to be a jerk about being disruptive.
 
16) Yeah, failure can be good and we need to accept that. But some failures are bad because no matter what they say, some entrepreneurs never learn and move on to their next venture blaming everyone else for that first failure.
 
17) Or, you know, the market just wasn’t ready for their brilliant idea. (Though to be fair, that is sometimes the case).
 
18) Just as overnight successes are rare, so too are overnight failures. In many cases, the signs were there, but entrepreneurs ignored them because these signs did not align with their view of the wonderful world of startups. Or their inflated views of themselves.
 
19) There has been some conversation recently around the idea that the Asian startup ecosystem is so unforgiving of failure, that it may have led an entrepreneur from India committing suicide. While that is tragic, again, it’s not always about entrepreneurs. Being an entrepreneur is not the be-all and end-all of your existence.
 
20) People commit suicide for all sorts of reasons. Professionals do it when they’re faced with bankruptcy; businessmen do it when they see their stocks diminish in value; tradesmen do it when they can’t pay their bills; schoolkids do it when they don’t score all distinctions in a government exam; lovers do it when they’re heartbroken; grunge rockers do it when they feel they have reached an artistic impasse.
 
21) Again, there is nothing so special about entrepreneurs that the ecosystem needs to ‘wake up.’ There are such tragedies all around us; it is all of society that needs to wake up. Making this is an ecosystem-specific issue just cuts off help and compassion for many others.
 
22) Never treat advice from an external person with no domain expertise, no matter how well-intentioned, as more important than the advice the domain experts in your own team give you. You know what they say about opinions and arseholes.
 
23) That doesn’t mean you should close your mind to new ideas either.
 
24) Your customers/ audience are not external people; they’re part of your platform. You should always pay attention to what they tell you, and sometimes this comes only from their actions.
 
25) Just because you’ve taken the leap into entrepreneurism, you haven’t suddenly been transformed into ‘The Special One.’ Even Jose Mourinho, it turns out, wasn’t that special after all. Many people do bold things with their lives, and it isn’t always about business and making tons of money.
 
26) And while those entrepreneur networking sessions can sometimes be useful for sharing, most of the time it’s a bunch of founders getting together, clinking cocktail glasses (or teacups in Malaysia), going, “You’re special,” “No, you are special,” “No, we’re all special and these non-entrepreneur types just don’t understand how special we are!” Get off that self-constructed pedestal, why don’t you?
 
27) No matter how rich and successful you become, remember there are people doing far more important work than you and getting paid a pittance for it (nurses and paramedics, teachers, firemen, NGO staff, etc.)
 
28) And remember, there are always more important things in the world, and in your life, than mere business success.
 
Recommended Reading:
 
Coding is more important than Shakespeare, says VC living in self-contained universe
 
Why teaching may truly be the world’s most important career
 
10 things I learned about the world from Ayn Rand’s insane ‘Atlas Shrugged’
 
 
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