FailCon: Startup Reality

November 3, 2011

I didn’t know what to expect going into FailCon, but it turned out to be the best conference I’ve been to. Why? Because it’s a startup event grounded in reality. It completely challenges the fantasy of overnight success. It turns out most startups take years to build, and that most successful founders have had multiple startups fail on the path to success.

Highlights Included:

  • Joe Gebbia of Airbnb talking about their years-long trough of sorrow. Rather than “fail fast”, they stuck with their vision for years before finding product-market fit.
  • Travis Kalanick of Uber talking about his previous startup, which dragged on for something like 9 years – with no pay until exit.
  • Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures talking about failure. Favorite quote: “My willingness to fail gives me the ability to succeed”.

Having recently launched a startup and entered the trough of sorrow, this event’s timing couldn’t be any better. Entrepreneurs need to know that the trough of sorrow is normal, and that it typically takes years to get to product-market fit. Ideally, entrepreneurs should know this before they get started. I worry that it’s not clear to many people getting started that, even in today’s market, their startup is likely to take 3-7 years to succeed, and is even more likely to fail.

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Advice from StartupDay 2009

January 19, 2010

“Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.” – Baz Luhrman

On September 26, 2009 I attended the StartupDay conference organized by Seattle 2.0.  The speakers were successful in the Seattle startup scene, and dispensed advice that was very valuable as I considered creating a startup of my own.  Now that I have a blog I can finally post the notes.

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t quit your day job.  (This was not what I wanted to hear)
  • Don’t just create a product, but a business (a revenue engine).
  • Need a way to generate income while working, or at least some revenue within the first ~6 months.  Some presenter did consulting on the side.
  • Don’t get venture capital or you’ll have new bosses to answer to.
  • Minimize regret.

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