The 6 things I would have told myself the first day I set foot in Silicon Valley if I could go back in time.
#1 REMAIN POSITIVE
Ok Kevin, you’ve just moved to Mountain View, bought a Prius (named her Louise) and you’re looking to build a start up that you can believe in. The first thing you’re gonna hear is, “It’s all a bunch of bullshit!” You’ll hear that sentiment time and time again from everyone you know. Founders, developers, designers, CTOs, PMs, VCs & everyone else in the Start Up game. And if you don’t, just assume that the person you were talking to forgot to mention it and mentally add it on to whatever they were saying. Yes, even the barista at Philz. “Is that the way you like your Pumpkin Spiced Iced Latte sir?…well, it’s all a bunch of bullshit.” Oh, and that show on HBO? One joke…It’s all a bunch of bullshit.
Don’t let it get to you! What is bullshit is not believing in yourself. Your idea? Your MVP? Those things can be changed. Never, ever pivot on your self worth. You can’t see into the future but you know who you’re gonna be looking at in the mirror tomorrow morning. If you’re square with that guy, everything else is figureoutable. Smile. Enjoy the weather and keep working.
Don’t let that negative crap get into your kitchen!
BUILD FOR PROFIT, NOT FUNDING
That bullshit I was talking about? I never said it didn’t exist. That bubble you hear everybody talking about is full of it. Where does it come from? Well I’m no economist Kev, but I’d say it comes from thinking that money and worth are the same thing. If someone gives you money to help you develop your idea that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth anything. It just means that someone had some money to give you that they don’t need! Probably because they don’t want to give it to the government and setting it on fire isn’t that much fun. The funding is there to allow you to have the time and resources to see if you can turn a profit. And the only way to do that is to make sure more money is coming in through the front door than going out the back. “Building a real business for purpose, with a revenue model and a profit model…is an antidote to the nonsense permeating the valley.” ←a real smart guy told me that once. He meant bullshit when he said nonsense.
ASK FOR HELP
I know you’re a tough guy, Kev but you should ask as many people you can for help. And the best way to ask for help from others is to offer help to others. Go to Meet Ups and talk to people. I know you organize your own but that’s not enough. Go to as many as you can. Put on your name tag and listen to people. If you feel weird starting conversations here’s a good opening line. “Hi, my name is Kevin. How can I help you?” Saying that never seemed to bother you when you were tending bar. Drink a plastic cup of wine if it helps. Make connections and ask people their opinions of your ideas and don’t take criticisms too personally. Remember what I said before, it’s not about you. If someone judges you based on your startup idea, take a whiff and refer back to item #1.
I promise you Kev, you will find yourself in this situation: You just finish pitching your earth shattering, one-in-a-million idea and someone says, “Well, did you know that So-&-So.com is doing the exact same thing!” Resist the the impulse to say, “Well, did you know that you’re a stupid fat-face bastard!” and run out of the room. No one has an original idea. That lump you feel in your stomach is just the fantasy of your success dying. Let it go. It wasn’t real anyway. Success is a slow drawn out process that happens in the real world, not in a Powerpoint deck. Look on the bright side. Now you have something to compare your vision to. Thank the fat-faced bastard and tell him how much you’re looking forward to learning all about So-&-So.com. You might find a flaw in them that can save you a lot of heartache.
NEVER TAKE 101 WHEN YOU CAN TAKE 280
The next time you’re stuck in traffic on route 101, try to imagine what it’s like on 280. Picture it. You’re speeding along waving to the other drivers as you laugh and sip your Philz Pumpkin Spiced Iced Latte and sing along with Bruno Mars. The green hills whizz by under a Wedgewood blue sky. “Hello Mr. Cow!” you call out the window. “Hello Kevin! Hello Louise!”, Mr. Cow calls back. “Beep,Beep,” says Louise. Conversely, let’s just say you’re stuck in traffic on route 280. Now, try to imagine what its like on 101. Picture it. Traffic still backed up for miles with no reason. The smell of the bay drowning out the all taste of Pumpkin Spiced Iced Latte. Just concrete, asphalt, tail lights and billboards for GitHub and Twillio. No I will NOT ask my developer!
Just friggin’ take 280.
Don’t try to make every post a best-seller. You’re not that clever. Just keep ’em real and keep ’em coming. It’ll keep you motivated. See? Now don’t you feel better?