So, startups are even harder to build than I imagined.
Last week, Paul Graham advised us in his article to find an audience “who wants this [your product] so much that they’ll use it even when it’s a crappy version, one made by a two-person startup they’ve never heard of.” Okay. I can do that.
This week, Marc Andreessen took it even further. In part four of his blog post for PMARCA, he promises that our market matters most. Market matters more than your team. Market matters more than your product.
I get it, I really do.
You’ve got to find a group that needs a product desperately and who have the numbers or the growth rate to warrant the product. Here I am thinking I can do this. This is where the irony takes hold. You are pursuing a market or an audience. It could be a market you’re a part of, but it doesn’t have to be. It could be a product you yourself need, but it doesn’t have to be. Basically, your startup isn’t necessarily about you.
Graham tells us to persevere, to pursue startup ideas that aren’t sexy or that require copious amounts of annoying work. Andreessen tells us “the only thing that matters is getting to product/market fit.”
Here’s why I think it’s ironic. Part one of Andreessen’s article literally tells us in a numbered list all the reasons you shouldn’t do a startup. You’re signing your life away to pursue this idea. Your startup is an idea that might not even be for you, but somehow you have to be okay with subjecting yourself to constant emotional turmoil, spending countless hours working and taking out your own trash. No, it doesn’t sound like fun to me.
So how do you reconcile this? Well, there’s only three options, the way I see it.
Option 1: You don’t. It’s okay if you don’t want to do this. It’s a huge commitment, and unless it will bring you joy and fulfillment, do not do it. Definitely, don’t do it for the money. More likely than not, you won’t see much return, and if you do, it won’t be in the near future.
Option 2: You build a startup that is for you. There’s no shame in it. This is the easiest way, and it’s the way that will most likely lead to success. Mark Zuckerberg did it this way. He came up with Facebook to figure out who was hot at Harvard and who wasn’t. The easiest way to be passionate about your startup is if you yourself are one of those people who desperately want your product and will take even a passable version.
Option 3: Develop a passion for changing the world.
Option three is where I fall. My personal motto has always been that I don’t want to change the world. I want to change my portion of it. The audiences you will be serving, if you’ve come up with a good startup idea, desperately need your product. They desperately need you. That’s what drove Julia Reynolds to start Voices of Monterey Bay, a media nonprofit giving a voice to rural teens and prisoners. Read more about her startup here.
Who do you have a passion for helping? Teachers? Veterans? Daycare workers? College students? You’re not the only one with everyday snags and hang-ups. You don’t have to create something for yourself to be passionate about it. Find a group you empathize with and draw strength from the conviction that they need you. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Be the change for them.