Now that is a good question. These days being a tech startup founder or early employee is a wet dream for most. It’s the new rock star, perhaps even the next Justin Bieber… actually no, i take that back. I certainly don’t want to be labelled in any way the same as that #doosche!
But I think that there lots of assumptions and stereotypes that are likely played on within the startup world, and i suppose even the word startup implies something new and cool. The irony is that any business that is not yet successful is called a startup…! Really you don’t want to work in a startup, and you really don’t want to be a startup founder. You want to be a business founder but hey… who am I am to know?
Let’s have some fun, and see what the stereotypical startup looks like, what myths exist and see if we can debunk them a little…
All startup employees have to wear a branded hoodie… all the time!
Well contrary to popular belief you don’t have to sleep and eat in a brightly coloured, itchy ill fitting hoodie. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a ‘cultness’ to a startup and how better defined than wearing the same clobber, but this in my experience is only at events etc. Personally I like to dress well (well I think so!) as fashion does say something about you, and is really people’s first impression. Basically the long and short is that a startup is a collection of diverse individuals and therefore the fashions you find within will vary too. Thankfully…:)
Everyone in a tech startup has to code.
Now although this is obviously a really important attribute for a technology startup to have access to, it is not necessary for all team members to know C Language, C++, C#, Java, Ruby, SQL, PHP or Python. Now although they do have good names, you can get by without them. It is however useful to have a basic understanding of what they are if you are trying to recruit a top tiered development team or in case you go on a date with a developer. Now i am learning SQL as this will make me a better marketer, but otherwise don’t panic. So long as you have developers on your team you will be fine.
All offices in a startup are totally crazy.
This is rubbish. If you are a startup then you are probably running it from a broom cupboard. When my business partner, Aidan Rushby, and I started Movebubble we did so from his bedroom. Post it notes all over the wall, a table too small for 2 and his flatmates having a go as we did work pretty late building business plans and investment proposals. So when you see slides and bouncy castles in a ‘startup’ office again you are seeing fun and engaging studio setups for an established business. That takes time and money to get there. So start small, and get comfortable in that bedroom of yours… you have to work hard to get out of it. 😉 Good luck.
Some startups make it big overnight!
This is so far from the truth as all those overnight success stories that you have heard about are not overnight successes. These business have usually been in operation for a few years, had several pivots in strategy, have likely almost run out money and probably started as something else! So if you are looking at entrepreneurship as a money maker don’t. Go and join a bank. I think that approximately 90% of new businesses fail. Now this is certainly not a reason not to begin the journey, I applaud anyone brave enough to try, but you have to manage your expectations. It will be hard work, and take you some time before you are rolling in the ‘dollar dollar bills y’all…!’
If you don’t have a hockey stick curve it ain’t working.
Ahhhh, another load of rubbish. VERY few businesses, if any, have this imaginary hockey stick curve from the get go. It is more phased approach, with smaller wins, and then plateaus, followed by more small wins and then probably a trough of despair! It takes a huge amount of learning to develop a technology business, and you can only learn with failure. Don’t get me wrong there are moments when scaling a business becomes important, and you should only really be focussing on growth but this is not an initial concern. Focus on optimising what you have for a limited number of clients and go from there. Don’t stress about the magic work scale. VCs don’t want to see a large database, but retained, recurring users that are growing in number each cohort.
At Movebubble we have focussed on making a valuable product first, that users return to use over and over. Then we can focus on growth.
I know these are some silly examples, but I think that some people don’t really understand that a startup is about business and ultimately about adding value and making money. All technology startups should be aiming for a big win, a monopoly. I know this is a dirty word, and we are all bread to believe that competition is healthy but it’s not. Competition erodes profitability and ensures cat fighting and posturing rather than progression (this is another post altogether that will certainly write later for sure). Startups are beautiful places that hopefully breed innovation, creativity, diversification and development for mankind. I know it’s a cliche but yes, we do all start a business to ‘change the world..!’
But if you want to know what a startup is all about how about this funny video called #thestartup….