Launching a startup is cool. The possibilities are infinite, it’s fun and you get to use your creativity to build cool shit. A year or two into the venture, however, you suddenly find yourself exhausted, close to bankruptcy and with a never ending to-do list that includes a lot of boring stuff that needs get done. In those moments, it seems like abandoning might me the right thing to do.
In those moments, your friends and family will tell you to cut your losses and find a job. Even your brain, if it still functioning properly, might tell you it’s time stop this madness.
I know the feeling. Back when I was looking for a co-founder that could develop the Hardbacon iPhone app, I literally called, emailed and messaged all the iPhone developers in Quebec. Hundreds of them. They ALL said no or simply ignored me. I could have stopped. But I started calling iPhone developers in Ontario, until I found my co-founder Yazan, who had studied in finance before becoming a developer, was super excited about the idea, and moved to Montreal to join me.
Last fall, I tried to raise an angel round. I called and met with more than 100 angels and VCs. That’s when I realized those people don’t speak the same language as developers: they all said maybe, which is their way of saying no. I could have abandoned. Instead, we decided to raise money from regular people through an equity crowdfunding campaign. As of July 25th, we raised $210,000 and investments keep coming in.
Every entrepreneur knows exactly what I’m talking about. You need to be comfortable with hearing no when building a startup. You need to be much more perseverant than the average joe. But the dominant narrative of overnight successes and hockey shaped growth curves is what sells. So that’s what we hear about.
Don’t fail fast!
In fact, Silicon Valley is actually enamoured with the inverse of perseverance: the idea that failing fast is good, since it allows you to learn faster, and avoid spending too much time on failed endeavours.
Failing fast within a company make a lot of sense. You don’t want to keep doing something that does not work for a long time. However, you can always improve your product or even find new ways to solve the problem your start-up was set up to solve.
While some startups are probably doomed, I think there are lots of startups that fails too fast.
As a matter of fact, most successful startups went through many near-death experiences, and most often than not, years of financial struggle before they became an overnight success.
Five years after its foundation, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? was still a small garbage removal operation in Vancouver and did not live up to the expectations of its founder. He could have abandoned, but instead, he decided to give it another shot. He fired his 11 employees, because they were not delivering the level of customer service he was aiming for. Then, he proceeded to go back to driving the trucks, and turned the company into the multinational we know today through franchising.
Wattpad, the Toronto-based startup valued today at $400 billion, did not have a great start. A year after quitting their day jobs, its co-founders had about 1000 users and no business model. And they were personally out of money. At this point, many entrepreneurs would have abandoned, but they decided to find day jobs while still working on Wattpad at night and on weekends. That was in 2007. While their startup was surviving, smartphones became huge, and they had one million users by 2009.
I could go on and on. If the problem you are solving actually exist and your vision is right, the longer you are working on your startup, the more chances you have to experience the big break you need to turn your vision into a high-growth company. In this regard, it’s not so much about being intelligent. It’s about being at the right place, and doing what it takes to survive and improve until the time is right.