Startups Aren’t Cool. Get Over It.

Startup swag is part of the vanity that makes everyone forget what really matters.
“Starting a startup in 2017 is what starting a band was in the 90’s”

Starting a startup in 2017 is what starting a band was in the 90’s. Everyone is a founder, everyone has the next unicorn, and ultimately it’s the cool thing to do. The allure of running a unicorn, working in Silicon Valley, and being a “startup bro” drives many grads (and drop outs) to start their own companies. Traditional industries such as finance and consulting are feeling the hit as more bright minds pursue careers in the tech world and the coveted founder status. While many of these grads go on to bring tremendous values as employee number 10 or 50, a big subset of this group is so focused on being a founder that they overlook the important qualities of a successful startup. This phenomenon of failed startups and burnt time can be attributed to a few factors.

“Contrary to popular belief, the founder life isn’t for everyone. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows as it seems.”

Contrary to popular belief the founder life isn’t for everyone. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows as it seems. There is a very small subset of people that are cut out to be founders — and that’s ok! There is nothing wrong with joining the tech industry as employee number 5 and allowing the rising tide to lift all the ships in the water. Putting out fires all day, sleepless nights, and lack of social life is often too much to handle. Founders ultimately carry the responsibility for all mistakes made, all decisions, and anything to do with the company. The people that aren’t cut out for this role often end up focusing on the wrong things — wrong goals, wrong metrics, wrong priorities. The main concern here lies in the fact that this isn’t always apparent in the begining. Often times, founders that have great ideas but aren’t cut out for the founder role, end up finding this out once the startup begins to experience the highly coveted exponential growth. At that point, the best entrepreneurs will realize this and appoint someone to run the company or stack their board with people that can hold their hand. The remainder of the people that fall into this group end up failing and losing time.

“Focusing on funding and is not the right move. You don’t need a Silicon Valley office and all that startup swag.”

Congratulations! You’ve passed the first test and realized you are cut out for the founder life. You’ve stocked up on caffeine and said goodbye to your social life. The next issue that arises in startups is focusing on the wrong goals. Focusing on funding is not the right move. You don’t need a Silicon Valley office and all that startup swag. There is no need to hire 20 employees from the get go — especially if those employees are your friends. In the quest for unicorn status many founders spend more time on raising VC funding than they do on building their business. There is no argument that a revenue generating startup can properly leverage VC funding to achieve rocket ship growth. However, in an environment where every VC is looking for the next big thing, this mistake is too abundant. PowerPoints are great, but they don’t pay the bills. Too many startups are busy making pitch decks and aren’t spending enough time focusing on sales.

“Sales cure all.”

There is a universal truth with every business — sales cure all. The remedy for the cool factor failure is sales. Driving revenue should be the first goal of any startup. When you generate revenue the funding will come to you. There will be no need to waste time pitching every investor on the block and building elaborate PowerPoints to prove why your business is worth it. Revenue and user base are the best proof of concept for funding. Those two factors crush the best pitch decks. There is a plethora of startups that have insane burn rates. These companies often resort to “side projects” to keep the lights on. This is the worst startup approach. Focusing all your efforts on revenue and user acquisition is the best way to position your startup for success. As an example, Stacey Ferreira of Forge has been running her startup for 1.5 years without buying t-shirts — so it can be done! By holding off on startup swag, swanky perks, and all of the startup vanity, you can properly allocate your limited capital to focus on doing what counts.

“TLDR: Bootstrap your way to success”

Now that your focus is properly aligned with revenue, sales, and users you can begin your quest to startup stardom.

Thanks to Stacey Ferreira for letting me use her startup as an example. Visit for an easy way to hire, schedule, and retain your workforce.