Don’t Be Mr. Start-Up, Keep Coding.

Disclaimer: Don't know who this guy is but the pic works for the post. If this is you, sorry :)
Disclaimer: Don’t know who this guy is but the pic works for the post. If this is you, sorry 🙂

I can’t stand this guy:

– Start-up founder

– Company is funded by investors yet has no traction (or hasn’t even launched)

– Sitting in a First Class seat instead of coach…and thinks he deserves it. Which is why I can’t stand him.

Back when I started my first company I took a flight from Toronto to San Francisco. It was the first time I was going to visit Silicon Valley and I was excited. I met this guy while waiting to board the plane. I had recently seen his picture in the paper and a write-up on his startup; it was just getting started, hadn’t launched yet, but they did a story on it. This was 2007, a little before the “its cool to be a geek” world we live in now.

Being a fellow entrepreneur I introduced myself and said hello, thinking its cool that two Canadian kids are heading out to the Valley. He didn’t reciprocate much at all. Ok, no problem. When I boarded the plane I walked past him as he sat in business class, he looked up slightly and smirked. Figuring a plane wasn’t the right place to be keepin’ it real and let a fist fly, I let it pass but I wondered how this guy is in business class when his product hasn’t even launched.

Fast forward a year and his company is out of business. Squandered investor money, co-founders fighting, etc.

In recent years, I’ve seen this type of guy more than a few times. It’s the same guy talking big at conferences about the “success” of his company because they’ve raised money. He’s sometimes on a panel talking about all the great things his company is going to do, how they’re going to change the world…and even if any of it is true, it hasn’t happened yet and it’s the team back at the office coding all night to make it happen. Not him.

I can’t stand this guy because the two founders reading about him on tech blogs dream to be him while they work hard and hustle on their idea. They think he made it and for some reason a lot of others think so to even though all he’s doing is pissing away investor money and playing the hype. He’s an emperor with no clothes and he sets the wrong example for the true soldiers working on their dream.

It seems like this guy is everywhere. And it’s wrong.

Part of (actually, a lot of) the blame is the startup culture that’s been created in the past few years. It became more about showing up to every conference you can get into, in an obviously undersized t-shirt, scruffy, with your backpack with a Mac in tow and blabbing about your idea or critiquing the other guy’s. All talk. All show. No substance.

To the true entrepreneurs; those pouring their time, savings, frustrations and joys into what they hope will be a success: Keep going. Ignore the hype. Ignore what’s written about these so-called stars, their 15 minutes will soon pass. Keep coding and stay focused on your goals. Real success is when you’re giving your customers something they love, having fun doing it, and making good on all that you (and you’re investors if you have any) have bet on. It’s that moment when you look back and be truly proud of what you and your team nurtured from nothing into something special.

You’re either going to make it or you’re not. If you don’t it won’t be because you spent your time at conferences show-boating instead of working hard. If you make it then that first class seat is going to feel great because you earned all the leg room you deserve.

Keep coding and dreaming big. You guys are the true stars.