Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Lost Post: Who In Their Right Minds Would Start a Startup?

This is the first of a series of lost posts that I wrote but neglected to publish. Enjoy.

Q: Who in their right minds would start a startup?
A: Greedy Bastards.

Which is why so many startups fail. A lot of people start companies because they have a cool idea. Or a marketable idea. Or rich parents.

I can’t judge them too harshly. John and I started a company because we have a cool and marketable idea. Unfortunately, no rich parents. Thus, we beg at the door of Silicon Valley’s surrogate parents, the Sand Hill Sugar Daddies.

Unfortunately, many people who found a startup company during a frothy period (like right now) often lack the most important motivation: passion for their product. I challenge any CEO of a Myspace clone to honestly tell me that he’s passionate about bringing cat owners together with his brilliant new service, PurrfectSpace (made-up name, feel free to take it). C’mon, the guy doesn’t even own a cat. I can’t believe these things are still being launched, or worse, funded. Having said that, Dogster is doing pretty well, and its CEO Howard Rheingold does seem passionate about pets.

How does anyone find the energy to lead a startup from demo to profitability without passion, i.e. if they don’t believe that their product can change how people live?

When John presented the idea for Tenuki to me, the first thing I asked is would I use it? Then, would anyone else I know use it? Then, being a crass capitalist, can we make any money with it?

Answers: 1. Yes, I’d use it. 2. Maybe, better ask my friends. 3. No idea, better research the market space.

Only while I was researching the market space and refining the idea with John did I realize that Tenuki could actually change the way people live. Not in the way that a perpetual energy machine would, or an immortality pill, but in the way they interact with each other. I finally got the Big Idea. And that’s what made me quit my job and move out to San Francisco. I got the passion. The Passion of the John.

Update: A day after I wrote this entry, Fred Wilson wrote a piece on the importance of passion in running a company.