3 Observations For Other First-Time Founders
So you’re going to leave your safe, cushy job and start a company. Nice!
Well, considering we’ve spent a few months starting Wisepatch, I’m clearly highly qualified to give you amazing advice about starting your specific company. Here goes…
I’m kidding, of course. And by the way, you should probably be weary of anyone who gives you definitive, “you must follow this” advice about your particular startup, especially in the first days. When I played a ton of poker, people would often ask me things like, “should I play a hand like J9 suited?” For anyone who has played much poker, there is only one right answer to that question: ‘It depends.’ For the most important areas of your company (product, technology, monetization), it’s probably the same way. Probably.
That being said, what might be helpful are a few observations that I’ve combed from several months of being a first-time founder. A quick look at three things you will probably experience:
- You Will Talk About Your Idea All The Time: Have you ever met a random person at a party and been asked what you do? If you work at a big company like LinkedIn, you just say, “I work at LinkedIn.” Maybe there’ll be some chit-chat about someone you know in common, but in four+ years I never once had someone follow up with, “Tell me in excruciating detail exactly what your startup is… Oh yeah? How is that different than Quora or Yahoo Answers?” Now I have that conversation every day. Know that you will be asked about your company or product every single day, by everyone. And when I say everyone, I mean last week the postal worker I bought stamps from asked, “How’re you going to get distribution?” A homeless guy outside suggested I integrate with Facebook (Though that advice we really did follow. Hey, he seemed pretty smart?). If you don’t have a pithy, short way to describe your company now, you will soon.
- Everyone Will Be A Doubter: When Chris Dixon says that being a founder means starting with, “no one who believes in you (except perhaps your closest friends and family),” he is absolutely right. Not too many people will be openly dismissive about your idea or product, but you will feel the skepticism seeping out of their pores. And look, they’re probably right. The odds certainly say so. But hey, the only alternative to continuing to think and work hard is to agree with them and demonstrate that you have no conviction for your own idea. And that’s pretty lame. Don’t do that.
- Everything Will Look Like Competition: If you’re working on a product in a large market, the first few months will feel like a press barrage of companies that sound exactly like your product. This will be exacerbated by the fact that everyone who you’ve talked to about your idea will forward you every TechCrunch article remotely similar to your idea. Oh, and of course Andreessen Horowitz / Greylock / SV Angel / Benchmark / YC / Sequoia / Your Mom invested in their Series Seed / A. The first few times, you may panic about that TechCrunch / Venturebeat / PandoDaily post. After a while, you’ll realize that the world is large, markets are huge, hunger is on your side, and you should just get back to working on product.