Why You Should Ignore Every Founder’s Story About How They Started Their Company

Founding Stories Are Myths

Company founding stories are almost always non-malicious lies. Take Netflix:

That didn’t actually happen

Sam Walton’s Overnight Success

A sign for the 1st opening of Walmart

The Biggest Mistake Of Sam’s Professional Life

Sam started his retail career at 27 buying his 1st store, a “Ben Franklin” variety store franchise.

  • putting popcorn & ice cream machines in front of the store to drive traffic
  • doing huge discounts but actually making it up in volume (i.e. not ironically)
  • buying directly from manufactures instead of going through the franchise (which allowed for cheaper prices)

Unsexy Determination

Sam spent the next 12 years in what I call narrative limbo.

  • Like, say, that time Sam tried to start a shopping mall 10 years too early and lost $25,000?
  • Or what about the time a tornado destroyed his best performing store? All he had to say was “we just rebuilt it and got back at it.”

Would You Have Invested in Sam Walton?

It was here that Sam finally saw the opportunity for much bigger discount stores and got to work on the 1st Walmart.

The 1st Wal-Mart

Finally, the point where most people look at to learn, is the end of our story.

Sam’s first mention in the New York Times
Page 44 NYT mention of the Walmart IPO, a week after it happened

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Trevor McKendrick

Trevor McKendrick

Sold my first 1st company, now @ Lambda School. Newsletter: http://trevormckendrick.com/newsletter — 10% aim, 90% shoot #Optimism2020