by Samir Rath
“Hi, I am Teodora and I just quit my job before two months! (Applause) I have an idea and I will get a grant to build my startup!”
Most entrepreneurial meetups have started to feel more like Alcoholics Anonymous. We have become a generation where corporate jobs have become passé and undesirable. Millennials no longer respect a well-paid corporate job as a path to gain knowledge, credibility, contacts and expertise in a certain field. Suits and formals scream out loud to be bounced at the doors of the club for cool startup kids. The Wolf of Wall Street has just given way to the Geek in the Valley as a dream for most graduates from the most elite of our education institutions.
The misinterpretation of Steve Jobs speech at Stanford’s commencement address as “follow your passion” has given many younger people an excuse to laze around in Startup hubs as lifestyle entrepreneurs. The unlabeled Startup clubs that are appearing across the globe are starting to feel and look eerily alike. They tend to be centrally located, expensive, spacious and “unique” industrial spaces, mostly subsidized by public money or tax breaks for “R&D” for larger corporations. The offices are becoming the new “corporate culture” complete with the t-shirt and jeans dress code, foosball tables, ping pong paddles and the quintessential office dog. These are a far cry from the garages in Silicon Valley where truly innovative companies like Apple, Google and Amazon made the start to their incredible journeys.
Cal Newport, an academic who has been studying patterns of success, encourages people to do as Steve Jobs did and not as he said. Jobs discovered Apple computer at a time when he was largely into eastern mysticism. He felt he could make a quick $1,000 by selling kit computer circuit boards to local hobbyists. He would make them for $25 each and sell them for $50. However, what he got instead was orders for fully assembled computers at $500 each from Paul Terell, the owner of Byte Shop. Instead of following his passion for mysticism, he jumped right into building computers. Apple computers did not start with a dream to dominate the world, but a small scheme to make a fast buck.
Today people start businesses to make more money, to have power or to have more free time. This expectation is quite delusional. Most new businesses fail. Instead of becoming his own boss, a startup founder becomes a slave to customers, employees, investors and suppliers. The idea of weekends just goes out of the window. The only good reason to start a company is to move the world in a direction that fits your value system. Project a place where millions will be slightly better off because of what you are about to do. And that will give you that extra ounce of strength when the going gets tough, and you start riding the proverbial roller coaster that is to build a real tech startup.
Samir Rath is an angel investor, author and entrepreneur. He has recently published a book titled “No Startup Hipsters” to help first time entrepreneurs figure out their own path instead of being drowned in generic startup advice. You can follow him at @Samir_Rath or connect with him on LinkedIn.
Michael Pham | Courtesy of Samir Rath