Entrepreneur v2

October 14, 2005

Watching Dave Winer on NerdTV last night I was struck by one section in particular:

Anyway, well, there’s an awful lot of BOGU1 in being a successful entrepreneur, and so the second time around you go, “Well, I’m not gonna work really hard. I’m just gonna be smart, ‘cause I know I’m really smart. And I’m gonna have - I’m not gonna have to make do with an inadequate computer, and we’re gonna have a really good PR firm, and they’re gonna take care of the PR issues for us the whole time through. And everything’s gonna be done first-class. We’re just gonna do it the right way this time.” As opposed to, “Well, it didn’t work.”

Fact is that you always got a competitor that’s willing to do all the awful things that you have to do to be successful, and the fact is to achieve that level - any level of success, I think you really do have to burn yourself out. I really do. I don’t think there’s a shortcut. And so that’s the - that seems to be the story that a lot of second time entrepreneurs go through. I think they - that we all end up learning that one.

The mysterious Mr Gutman posted very similar ideas a few months ago, drawing a response from Ev (a Blogger founder):

I firmly believe that the extreme imbalance so pervasively assumed to be a required component of startup life is detrimental to effectiveness in the long run. What I think is much more key is focus.

Another trick to this theory is that it’s harder to demonstrate focus to your people than it is to demonstrate willingness to put in insane hours. And all this is not to say that, endless hours can’t make up for some lack of focus.

All the feelings and sentiments in these posts ring true for me, but I think it all boils down to a feeling of wanting to “do it right” the second time round. Starting a business is more than just a learning curve, it’s getting beat over the head with a learning stick. Through daily decisions and drawing lines of grey you learn about your boundaries, strengths and weaknesses.

I believe it’s about focused energy. Start-ups have very limited capital, time and skills. The tighter your focus, the further you can progress with the limited resources available. Unfortunately, this is incredibly hard to do in the whirlwind of chasing new ideas and customers.

Great start-ups should be like having a baby. No matter how tired you are, or how much attention it requires, the joy and rewards are worth it2.

  1. Bend over and grease up - see #19 here.
  2. Or so I’m told by people who actually have children (or canine psuedo-children).