Geneva Swanson

Start-ups Aren’t All Butterflies and Rainbows

Before you venture out and start on developing a start-up, be real with yourself and accept that it won’t be easy. That way you can be prepared for when the bumps in the road come along. Because there will be bumps in the road, no doubt about that. It’s not going to be all butterflies and rainbows, my friends.

The PMARCA Guide prepares you for every difficult aspect of creating a start-up and even warns you about how difficult it can be to maintain success.

no meme

A few points particularly stuck out to me:

1. “You get told no, a lot.” We have all been and will continue to be told no throughout our lives but it’s when we are told no in response to something we deeply care about or have worked hard don that it really hurts.

2. “Hiring is a huge pain in the ass.” The people you hire could determine whether your company does well and whether your product gets made and maintains success. It also determines the culture of your company and the reputation of yourself and the product.

3. “…X factors that can come along and whup you right upside the head, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about them.” X factors being the uncontrollable economy and job market and even world events, movements and natural disasters (literally anything you can’t control.) How can you keep these X factors from harming your company and product? You simply can’t. You can prepare for them sure, but they happen regardless.

Then there is the heartbreaking “simple failure.” Whether your product just simply doesn’t sell, you run out of money, you end up not being able to do it because it’s too hard or maybe your product doesn’t even work. Who knows? No one that’s the point, you’re taking a risk. You just have to decide if it’s a risk worth taking.

If it is a risk you’re willing to take, the guide says there are three critical things to focus on: team, product and market.

Team being how great your team and the people who work on the startup or company are. Will your team be able to execute the things that need to get done?

Product being the quality of the product you are selling or developing. How impressive is your product and will it attract people?

Market being the size of the audience you’re selling to. Is your market big enough and sustainable enough that you will maintain a steady profit and enough profit to pay for your team and product?

The guide says that market is the most essential. It is imperative that there are lots of real potential customers. The market doesn’t need to like the team. It just needs you have to have a viable product. IF you do, the market will run toward you.

On the other hand, if you have a terrible market, you could have a great team and the best product and you still don’t do well because there are no consumers.

At the end though you strive for all, try to make each element the best you can and then you have the best chance at being successful. So yes, its hard, yes there will be bumps in the road, yes its long hours, but at the end of the day if you are passionate and have dedication you can be successful.


An example of this working in media is Voices of Monterey Bay. As reported in NiemanLab, the founders of this California journalism nonprofit found a gap in the market but are also passionate about making a difference and giving voice to people who were previously ignored.

Prepare yourself. Work hard. Be passionate. Succeed.




7 thoughts on “Start-ups Aren’t All Butterflies and Rainbows

  1. Your article was a great read! One of my favorite aspects of your article was how you listed out different facts that you found to be of importance. I love listicles. I know some people absolutely loathe them because of the fact that they are everywhere on social media. But I think when done correctly, it’s a great tool and makes the point you are trying to make that much more solid. You did great!


  2. You pointed out one thing that I very much feel the same way about, rejection. The example of rejection is used because startups often never make it off the ground “You get told no, a lot.” We have all been and will continue to be told no throughout our lives but it’s when we are told no in response to something we deeply care about or have worked hard on that it really hurts.” I’m curious how people become okay with or learn how to tolerate rejection. For me, if I gather the courage to share my own “good idea” then it gets rejected it ruins my month!


  3. Hi Geneva! I really like and agree with most of what you had to say about what stuck out to you in the PMARCA Guide article. Rejection is hard to take in general, but getting told no when it’s something you really want is even worse. I especially like your next point––hiring. There is so much that goes into hiring that people do not think about. Like how many people to hire, what their salaries will be, what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are within the company, and the list goes on and on. While hiring might seem quick and simple, it is probably the complete opposite.


  4. Hello Geneva,
    I thoroughly enjoyed hearing your optimistic perspective on startups. I also agree that with any amount of dedication and passion– anything can get done. I liked what you had to say about “simple failures.” Because, I for one, fall into this school of thought every now and again. Having the ability to decide if it is really worth the risk really is what it all comes down to. Loved your post!


  5. Your first point about getting told no when your trying to do a startup is probably the one thing that honestly would make me not want to do a startup. I am that spoiled brat who throws a fit when I am told no so getting told no for something I really want I get upset. But the other side of me never wants to give up so I will fight for what I really want.


  6. I took notice to similar points in the PMARCA guide article, but the most being the x factors portion. I feel like it’s easy to get mixed up in what seems to be the most important and detrimental aspects of a startup but it only takes that one thing that is missed to hit at the worst moment and challenge the stability of a company. It’s true, you can have a game plan to bounce back but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that those things are always possible.


  7. I agree with your major takeaways from this reading, they stuck out to me most as well. Especially being told no (a lot). As a journalism student, I had to work really hard to get people to talk to me for stories, especially when they didn’t recognize the publication. Getting comfortable with being told no has actually benefitted me because I’m not as apprehensive about taking risks, asking questions, or putting myself out there as a result. I also 100% agree with your assessment that if the market isn’t favorable, it’s obviously going to be tougher to create a successful startup.


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