Thursday, November 08, 2007

How not to Die (Paul Graham)


Another way of saying that is that half of you are going to die. Phrased that way, it doesn't sound good at all. In fact, it's kind of weird when you think about it, because our definition of success is that the founders get rich. If half the startups we fund succeed, then half of you are going to get rich and the other half are going to get nothing.

If you can just avoid dying, you get rich. That sounds like a joke, but it's actually a pretty good description of what happens in a typical startup. It certainly describes what happened in Viaweb. We avoided dying till we got rich.

When startups die, the official cause of death is always either running out of money or a critical founder bailing. Often the two occur simultaneously. But I think the underlying cause is usually that they've become demoralized. You rarely hear of a startup that's working around the clock doing deals and pumping out new features, and dies because they can't pay their bills and their ISP unplugs their server.

Startups rarely die in mid keystroke. So keep typing!
Another feeling that seems alarming but is in fact normal in a startup is the feeling that what you're doing isn't working. The reason you can expect to feel this is that what you do probably won't work. Startups almost never get it right the first time. Much more commonly you launch something, and no one cares. Don't assume when this happens that you've failed. That's normal for startups. But don't sit around doing nothing. Iterate.

No comments: