Three Things a Startup is Not

Lately I’ve been meeting a lot of people who call themselves “entrepreneurs.”

The funny thing is, many of them have never even started a business.

It’s really very odd.

I chalk it up to what I see as the growing misconception that being an entrepreneur is sexy, a notion mostly propagated by the movie, “The Social Network.”

Of course, when I say that, I’m only partly serious that the film was an actual cause; there are lots of other factors, too.

That’s why I think it’s important to point out a few important things about startups.

1. A startup is not “sexy.”

I always say that most of the time in a startup you’re drowning, holding your breath and learning how to swim all at the same time. That’s because no one goes to school to learn how to launch a business–you just have to do it, and when you’re out there making it happen, you’re also making a million mistakes that, hopefully, won’t be repeated in your next startup (but there’s a good chance they will be). If you’re thinking about launching a business, abandon the notion that Sean Parker’s going to take you out for cocktails and blow your mind in the first week. It’s really not ever like that except in the movies.

2. It’s a ride, alright–a sinister roller coaster ride.

One day you’re up, and the next you’re down–this is what it’s like when you’re running a business, so get used to it. Just when you think you’ve made progress, you encounter a setback. You have to get used to the highs and lows.

3. A startup is not about “magic,” it’s about work.

In one of my failed startups, a colleague said to me, “I kept waiting for some sort of magic to happen.” The reality is that with a startup, you can’t sit around waiting for magic to happen–you have to just work your ass off instead. Talk to customers, build your product, get feedback, then do it all over again. It’s a cycle, and it’s hard work, and it definitely doesn’t involve magic.

My hope is that you think long and hard before you jump in the pool… and if you do or if you already have, congrats.

The aquatic life is a fun one and I’ll continue to write about everything I know to help keep your head above water.