A Generation of False Entrepreneurs

Definition of Entrepreneur

For the most part, that definition is correct. The only alteration I would make is, you need to be a founder of a dot-com (and if you are hipster enough, dot-io) company to be considered a true entrepreneur these days. If your product is not a website and/or Android-iOS app, then what exactly is it?

But that’s not entirely true, as the hardware sector saw an immense growth in the past few years, with products like the GoPro and Oculus Rift winning people’s hearts. You know, like the red hearts on Instagram, and now Twitter as well? And how could we forget the iconic blue thumbs-up! These primary-colored digital buttons are the modern metrics of finding out whether your brand is winning market share or if it’s going to sink like the Titanic. They make the marketing folks salivate like the Pavlov’s dog, with a successful viral hashtag campaign translating to a greater customer acquisition and a wage raise for the person responsible

Anyway, back to the topic. The reason why the tech industry seems to be dominating the global economy is because tech is omnipresent. It’s everywhere. It’s in our homes, our hospitals, our schools and libraries. Even our genitals are not being spared. It’s almost like a whole new dimension to human evolution.

The Doom of Humanity

I can almost hear a few readers going, “Why is this person trying to sound edgy? As if mockery of xyz has already not become a cliché in itself..”

I know. Why the narrative anyway?

Cause you love posts like this, don’t you?

It’s a cycle you see, there is a system at place with some obvious flaws that everyone relates to but no one really talks about. Then some stranger on the internet makes a parody post calling out the bullshit. People respond with “this is so true!” and kaboom goes the inter-webs.

Sorry to disappoint, but this post is not gonna be that. There are some glaring holes in the modern startup culture and it’s not funny at all, in fact it’s quite terrifying.

For example, we often hear various versions of the “failure is the stepping stone to success” quote. The idea behind this motto is pretty genuine, i.e. to learn from your failure and to make progress. But it’s overused and exaggerated in the current startup culture, to the extent where you are expected to throw a party if you fail, since you’re already on your way to succeed. This is a fallacy, failure does not immediately equate to “path to success.” You are supposed to learn from it and then evolve, not celebrate and repeat.

If that sounds baloney to you, that someone would misinterpret such a simple idea, let me share with you an instance of this foolishness.

I was at a meetup a few months ago and we were doing our introductions, when a guy, probably in his early 30’s, got up and proudly declared “this is my 15th startup!” then looked around searching for impressed reactions, and impressed people were! What sort of an achievement is that? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this person should give up. In fact, such high level of grit in an entrepreneur is commendable, but grit alone doesn’t lead to success. If you are not learning anything from your past, then what’s the difference between your zeal and an ambitious fish trying to mate with a rock?

It’s not that you should give up, but to slap excess makeup on your failure just to make it look pretty, is appalling and the sign of a false entrepreneur.

That is the intent of this series. To seek out and shame the unrealistic, delusional qualities of the modern entrepreneur that the current startup culture perpetuates.

The Current State Of Entrepreneurship

Silicon Valley (TV Series)

Entrepreneurship is hot right now. Like, really hot. And rightfully so, since it’s the only career path with no official qualifications required to get in. Sure, you need to have leadership skills, communication skills, a deep understanding of your product’s market, yada yada.. but those are the requirements to succeed, not to startup.

If you allow me to generalize a bit — youth and arrogance go hand in hand. And it just so happens that as an entrepreneur, you get to be your own boss as well. With such a low barrier to entry, dozens of 20-something college dropouts raising millions, or even billions, of dollars for their sassy internet startups and becoming overnight celebrities, it’s bound to be the hottest career option of this century.

Time for a hyperbole : “wait.. so you are telling me, I can drop out of college right now, get some $100,000 from this Thiel person, build a silly internet product by hiring a few remote developers, get featured in Tech Crunch and Mashable and raise millions of dollars from men in black suits!? All for getting adolescents addicted to my app? And I get to be my own boss too? HELL YA I WANNA BE AN ENTREPRENEUR!!”

Here’s the sad truth, the modern concept of Entrepreneurship has been plagued by narcissism. There used to be a time when the word startup meant the initial stage of building an established company that produces for its consumers and provides for its employees, but that’s not the case anymore. Being a startup entrepreneur in the 21st century is no more a career choice, it’s a lifestyle choice.

I like to call this The Clusterfuck Syndrome, where thousands of entrepreneurs start up, not because they want to produce quality products, create more jobs or become an industry leader, but just because they want to participate in the most sophisticated clusterfuck of this century. You know who these people are, you keep seeing them at startup conventions every few months, they have a decent looking yet pointless mobile application that they like to call their product and they hibernate in their empty shells that they like to call their startup. They are the false entrepreneurs celebrated by the current startup culture.

The Fictional Character

We humans really like stories. We like to create them, we like to share them and we like to consume them. Stories shape us as individuals and as a society. Sadly, this human attribute of ours is also the culprit that nurtures the false entrepreneurs of this generation.

We have, as a society, started believing in a fictional character, a superficial entrepreneur that single handedly changes the world with their brilliant ideas. We have glamorized entrepreneurship. We’re responsible for romanticizing the “success through failure” stories and have deluded ourselves into believing the myth of the lone wolf.

Look! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Mr. Genius Entrepreneur who will change the world with their “out-of-the-box” ideas!

Steve Jobs certainly comes to mind as the poster boy for this cheesy fantasy. And when I say Steve Jobs, I don’t mean the person Steve Jobs who is now dead, but the fictional character Steve Jobs we’ve created and the current startup culture is obsessed about; the household-name Steve Jobs that is still alive and breathing. If you’re observant enough, you might even see him in newspapers and magazines, on best-selling book covers and at your nearest movie theaters again in a couple of years.

Make no mistake, I’m in no way undermining the legacy of Steve Jobs. In fact, I quite admire him. But it also cannot be denied that his same legacy has given rise to a generation of wanna-be Steve Jobs who want to wear the “superhero entrepreneur” cape and dream of changing the world.

And that is absolutely terrifying. All this circle-jerking makes for a hilarious yet realistic TV series, and I’m sure many would agree that Silicon Valley has indeed become a parody of itself. But where it stops being funny is when you realize that we’re influencing thousands, if not millions, of young people through out the world in constructing mental empires, with tools made of fantasy and imagination, only to see it crumble by the mammoth that is reality. We are raising a generation of false entrepreneurs and we need to stop.

And the idea junkie is not even the only type. In my next article, I’m going to talk about the different types of false entrepreneurs that I’ve recognized over the past year.

This is just Part I of a three part series. Next up : “Types of False Entrepreneurs”

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Image Source : Google Images,
Steve Jobs Artwork done by me.