Why I Stopped Working On Other People’s Startup Ideas And Refocused On Myself
People who know me well, know I have a hunkering for innovation and startups. I wish that it was not just a hunkering, because I am no Guy Kawasaki or have unlimited capital, trust me on that. I am just a guy quite obsessed with learning everything about tech startups and helping tech startups. And that has translated itself into running 14 tech startup pitch events over 2 years in Boca Raton, Florida with over 150 tech startup companies pitching and writing 2 books on startups. My third book about startups called ‘Names’ [about choosing a name for your tech startup] will soon be available on Amazon.com. (don’t go there yet. because I have not yet published the book) If you want a free eBook version, they get on my email list at my website by clicking on Startuppop.com (just say you are a startup if you don’t know what you are) and I will send you a link to the eBook PDF when we publish the book.
While most tech startup founders read books and listen to dozens of famous startup founders, I found actually working for or advising, mentoring and ultimately working with startups to be the way to learn the most. I have also been involved with several as a co-founder. The experience was what I was looking for compared with corporate life.
For me, obsession with helping startups almost overtook my career (until I recently smartened up a tiny bit). I have spent countless hours meeting with, advising, emailing, cajoling, hounding, pushing and trying to convince startup founders to go this way or that or matching startups with capital. I had 2 or 3 meetings in the last couple days with startups. And I have a newly blunt attitude I now use when I just say whatever is on my mind, whether it is right or wrong. I use a caveat with this statement, that I am no expert, but my intuition says you should go this way or that. And sometimes startups listen to me.
Sometimes I help them with a germ of an idea that blossoms into an industry. Sometimes I have met with them and tried to kill them (even in the very first meeting). I can sense a disaster right off in the very first conversation with a startup. Usually this is not based on anything technical at all. It’s the human personality and relationship part that is so damning to a startup.
And you may be saying to yourself what is the problem with all of this startup consulting?
Well the problem is straight up that startups often have limited funds to pay us. So it is not a career working with most startups. It is more of a calling, but this calling has no house of worship!
There are a few startups that have the capital, but almost universally the ones with their own startup capital tend to be misguided misadventures. The ones with truly great, well thought out ideas and true grit can not raise seed capital (in south Florida) for many reasons at least at the very start. And usually the ones with the capital don’t have the skill-set necessary to succeed and quite often burn up their precious resources on things not so important (like $5000 a month rent or $5000 a month marketing consultants or $5000 a month this or that. Don’t believe me, it is true).
As a startup consultant I have spent a lot of my time trying to turn people with ideas into tech gurus like myself. The reality for any tech startup consultant is we know a lot more than most startup founders at this point. Consider yourself lucky to be able to be a tech startup consultant, in that the job is very rewarding, but not always financially. Most tech startups in south Florida do not raise capital unless they are deep into revenue or have a tremendous following or the right pedigree (well connected and top notch management team [then the story is quite different]).
And the startup that is making great revenue smartly does not need capital nor wants it more often than not. So, this leaves a conundrum for tech startups in south Florida that mimics 90% of the US outside of Silicon Valley, New York City, Austin, Boulder Co, Boston and Chicago where there is real seed capital.
I am hearing there is a tech bubble (in Silicon Valley and NYC) and I believe it! Stupid money seems to always flow into bad or untested ideas in Silicon Valley. They can afford it. We can’t. Silicon Valley based investors and VCs don’t care apparently when they lose 9 times out of 10. The 1 enormously success venture gives them hopefully exponential returns to make up for the duds. [and there are tons of victims of this type of system who end up with nothing but a bunch of free lunches and a bad attitude] Seed capital investing happens all the time in Silicon Valley, NYC (and most recently Haifa), but rarely here where we live in south Florida.
And I am also hearing from the showing at eMerge Americas (the startup conference) this year in Miami that the startup fad that was going on in Miami seems to be fading. It looks like startups are starting to lose their luster in South America and at the end of the Southeast continent. Remember few were given seed capital! Back in Boca Raton, 50 miles north of Miami, tech and tech startups will never fade because this is a town built on tech (The IBM PC was built here) and that has lead to a series of local tech companies that continue onward and upwards.
So, my misguided misadventures are over for now. I have worked for, founded or put time into at least 10 startups in the past 5 years outside of the 20 to 30 I keep in touch with as an adviser. What I need to tell you all, is that I have to refocus on my own venture and my own career and can not expend the energy on other ventures (though that is what I love to do). That is why I am working full-time for a corporation (a real job). And I have my own startup as a partner, 15 years in the making, the largest speed dating company in the US which is about to introduce a new online service.
Like an addict, I always will take a call or meet with startups to give them my opinion. And they seem to love my opinion, but that is all it is. I am not a guru. I am not a consultant or rain maker. In fact, I would describe a startup consultant as a person who has put their own ventures on hold for now. Why else would be they be a startup consultant if they were not in it for the next serial venture?
Are you interested in succeeding with your own startup and want to learn how to not fail?
Well, then. If you want to take the startup path and make it with your first startup, then I recommend you take the path I did. That path requires giving not taking. It is not something that many successful startup founders want to do in south Florida. You need to first work on other people’s ventures to learn. Learning on your first has proven to be ultimately a hard lesson for most.
So the answer is to work on other people’s ventures. It requires listening to other startup founders, those less capable as well as those wildly successful. To succeed you need to go out and help another startup founder and then another and then another and giving them your time [not taking it], especially if you want to learn. At any startup event at places like the FAU Tech Runway, with Gold Coast Venture Capital, Miami Grind, Funding Post and a dozen other events like our event, the StartupPOP Tech Startup Pitch Events, you can easily find a dozen startups to talk to and give them advise.
Do you have to be an expert? No. You just have an interest, be curious and be able to think and have an opinion. There is no right opinion with tech startups, just ideas that can go this way or that way.
What I recommend is selflessness, not selfishness. That is how you learn. Not by taking, but by giving. You learn by teaching. That is how I always learned to be an expert.
Good luck and we will see each other in the near future. You can still email me questions and maybe I will make some time for you if you are a local tech startup, but trust me it will take longer to get back to you. My startup office hours now start at 6pm.
Once again, get on my email list to get the PDF version of my eBook soon to be released called ‘Names’. Click here to get on the list.
Goodbye, Adieu. Aufwiedersehen. Gesundheit. Farewell.