‘That’s why,’ said Azaz, ‘there was one very important thing about your quest that we couldn’t discuss until you returned.’
‘I remember,’ said Milo eagerly, ‘Tell me now.’
‘It was impossible,’ said the king, looking at the Mathemagician.
‘Completely impossible,’ said the Mathemagician, looking at the king.
‘Do you mean –‘ stammered the bug, who suddenly felt a bit faint.
‘Yes indeed,’ they repeated together; ‘but if we’d told you then, you might not have gone — and, as you’ve discovered, so many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.’
— The Phantom Tollbooth
In the startup blogosphere, you’ll regularly see posts about how hard startups are, how hard it is to be an entrepreneur. Mark Suster has an excellent recent entry into the genre, coining the very excellent term Entrepreneurshit. Earlier this summer, Ben Horowitz brought his rapper’s flair to describing The Struggle, a cold and merciless beatdown about a place where nothing is easy and nothing feels right. A few years ago, Paul Graham posted what should have been the definitive piece about What Startups Are Really Like, covering all the high-low points of cofounder conflict, total life immersion, emotional roller coasters, endless persistence, unpredictable customers, clueless investors and heartless luck. But it wasn’t the final word, and it won’t be – why is that?
Dave McClure bends the pattern by noting (blaring, really, in inimitable McClure style) that the passion should be about product, not entrepreneurs. What all the other posts were saying is, Don’t come and try this shite because you think being an entrepreneur is fun, because it’s not. Dave completes the sentence by saying what the passion should really be about: product and customers. It’s a nice continuation of the message to whomever needed to read all the previous entreaties about the pain, the passion, and the not-very-likely glory.
Who exactly are all these posts talking to? To the inexperienced, of course – the battle scarred veterans already know what’s what. But those young tyros, those fresh-off-the-presses CS majors, the hackers, the “design guys,” the would-be world conquerors – all those startup sages want to send a message: think twice before you dive into the deep end of the pool, kiddos. There’s a bit of a concern that an endless horde of former Wall Street DBs will descend upon Silicon Valley, as they have been doing ever since the late ’90s, with their uninformed dreams of being “a startup guy.”
I say, let ’em come. I have no problem with anyone who wants to take the plunge. If you’re even thinking you might want to do it someday, do it now, do it today. I’d rather have you here, facing down those odds, in the Entrepreneurshit, deep in The Struggle, finding out What Startups Are Really Like – rather have you here than constructing a new derivative, grinding it out for the man, toiling away while wondering if this is really all there is to life. Never mind the fact that it’s completely impossible; that’s only true for those who listen to the misguided wisdom of their elders.