Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Starting Findory: Startups are hard

There is no doubt about it. Startups are hard. You have to do everything -- and I mean everything -- yourself.

You have to do all the technical work, including prototyping, research, coding, web development, design, data analysis, metrics, system administration, networking, hardware procurement, and database administration.

There is marketing, including advertising, press relations, viral campaigns, framing the product, and pitching to influencers.

There is business development, including handing requests for technology licensing, talking about cross marketing deals, exploring feed licensing, and investigating partnerships.

There is management, including project management, building a culture, choosing founders and advisors, hiring, mentoring, setting expectations, and building teams.

There is legal, including creation of and modifications to the corporate structure, non-disclosure agreements, licensing agreements, employee incentive packages, patents, intellectual property assignments, and frameworks for partnerships.

There is finance, including accounting, taxes, licensing, managing cash flow, business planning, and pitching potential investors.

There is customer service, including building help pages, creating customer self-service features, and handling incoming contacts with suggestions, complaints, requests for information, and requests for help.

All this for incredible risk. Often, it is your own money being poured into the company. There typically are no or limited salaries and no benefits.

That incredible risk comes with many rewards. Though unlikely, there is a large potential payoff dangling off at the horizon. Startups are building something new, the exciting tip of the cycle of creative destruction. And, running a startup, you have much freedom in what you decide to pursue.

However, that freedom can be a curse. There are so many degrees of freedom, it can be overwhelming.

What should the company do? Even more important, what should it not do? Does it have enough money to pursue X? Can a competitor better implement feature Y? What really matters to the company?

There are so many options, but so little time. You must keep moving, keep making decisions, but always be willing to stop or reverse if something looks wrong.

You learn a lot, but it is incredibly difficult. It is a remarkable challenge, an incredible experience.

3 comments:

RobotsThink said...

now thats WOW!
Your Findory startup series is a great read but this post is one of the best.You described all the aspects of the startup in such a concise way. great!

Alain Mevellec said...

I agree, but, for all those reasons, I would have titled "cool" instead of "hard"...

:-)

Jordan Mitchell said...

Yup, that about sums it up. I've often said to others that in a startup, you start with absolutely NO momentum ... you have to build it all yourself, and of course you can't gain momentum without already having it!

The other thing I'd add (based on my own experience) is how often people will disappoint you. Investors will string you along, partners may not be honest, employees will screw you ... the more you're on to something, sadly enough the more you have to watch your back. That's a tough lesson to learn for people who are optimistic, care about doing the right thing, and inherently want to trust people.