Want To Make An Impact? Stay Off The Stage

Andrew Paterson
Nov 8, 2015 · 2 min read

Remember the legend of Icarus? Daedalus warns his son of complacency and excessive self-confidence and, not to fly too close to the sun. Icarus heeds his father’s advice and sure enough, his wings melt and plummets into the sea and drowns. This tragic theme of failure at the hands of hubris is a good illustration that some need to remember in today’s divinatory startup eco-system.

The internet industry has inevitably produced its own stages & catwalks as well as hoards of fans and followers, chest-thumping every initiative and propelling infantile projects into global superstars regardless of the fact that most of them haven’t yet produced any tangible impact. This of course comes with a price; a cemetery full of valid business models, unfinished products & services and worthy founders & teams that neglected Icarus’s warning.

Promoting your startup in public before producing any palpable product or service is not only extremely time-consuming but comparable to trying to bring people into your restaurant before knowing how to cook. Sure small ventures need capital, rub shoulders and recruit but honestly, this should not put the project in peril by deviating the energy and focus it needs to survive.

What’s wrong is the system — too much money and resources focused on promoting innovation instead of the results. Too much talk and not enough doing. The cause? The expectation that by amplifying a signal of something vaguely noteworthy prompts its value to rise, in other words, speculation. You might respond by putting forward that it’s the responsibility of those that react to this “publicity” but remember, history is brimming with renown examples of failure due to “the collective wisdom of crowds”...

Founders of startups need to be reminded (and continuously coached) to concentrate their precious time and resources on producing value instead of vaunting about the future of it. All types of funds (seed, initial & venture) should invest more of their human capital on steering their seedlings through the dangers of “Sirenum scopuli” which would undoubtedly make for higher returns than the current process. And more light should be shone on platforms such as Kickstarter & Product Hunt who’s very function is amplifying result oriented projects and their reputation through a tight community engagement and peer ranking.

Staying away from the stage might seem hard at first (humans are very inclined to seek acclamation before action) and even contrary from “popular belief”, but you only need to read through stories like Automattic, Dropbox or Supercell to understand the potential of doing the work first.

Andrew Paterson

Written by

Entrepreneur, advisor, and writer, refuels with photography, outdoors, coffee, music, and wonderful spouse & son

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