So You Want to be the Next Facebook.
At Talos, we meet a lot of people looking to start companies and fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams. While we try to leave the advice writing to more experienced people who can leverage careers’ and decades’ worth of knowledge, a rising trait in potential entrepreneurs has forced our hand into writing this post. What is it, you ask, that frustrates us so much we must write about it?
The belief that one must be exceptional beyond reason.
This is the most common and the biggest flaw we see in potential projects. It is the illusion that every technology startup needs to sell themselves as the next Google, Facebook, or Apple. There are two huge problems (among many) with this outlook:
- The world already has a Google, Facebook, and Apple. It doesn't need another one, and no other company will follow that same path to success.
- If your business plan depends on this, then you either have not done your research or have found, in an Indiana-Jones-style adventure, Steve Jobs’ lost journal which imparted a rare spark of genius to you.
We are steeped in a startup mythology that idolizes these successes that, while exceptional, are not required to run a profitable company that does something important and useful. The reality is that most businesses will never become multimillion, much less multibillion, dollar ventures, and that shouldn't make you sad or disillusioned.
If, as a potential entrepreneur, you are worried about lost money, then keep in mind research says a salary above $75,000 a year money has only a nominal effect on happiness. That is about what most computer science graduates make with a bit of experience and a bachelor's degree. It is also about what the mom-and-pop bakery on my street pays out to its owners in a year.
Why is that relevant?
To remind you that you can be happy and fulfilled even if you don't make millions of dollars. And that as an entrepreneur if the millions of dollars should come it will be as a result of the passion you have for your work.
Have ambition, dream big, but don't make your business venture or your own ideas of success dependent on some exponential growth trajectory. Especially in technology there is no shame in wanting your company to experience the success of companies like Facebook, but don’t get the story wrong. They started on a single campus at a single liberal arts college on the East Coast. The founders scaled their companies, made smart investments as they grew, and, perhaps most importantly, were driven first by an idea. The money came later.
If you love what you do, then you will be able to do the work that will teach you how to be successful at it. Don’t base your expectations or plans on being anything but ordinary. At some point, we all become average when compared to peers. And that isn’t a bad thing! As someone who decides to invest money in startups, I would much rather see an average person willing to work hard to accomplish exceptional things than I would a person of any pedigree pitching the idea that extraordinary circumstances will arise to carry them to billion dollar heights.
The truth of the matter is that starting a company is hard. It will mean weekends in the office, lost friendships, and most likely failure after more work and money than you have ever put into anything else in your life. The pitch that extra-ordinary circumstances will allow you to avoid all of this very ordinary and arduous work attached to becoming successful is a losing one and is most often a sign of larger problems with the entrepreneur's dedication and his or her belief in an idea.
So to all of the budding innovators out there, I ask you to remember:
Pursue your passions.
Work your ass off in the middle.