Startups Anonymous: A Letter to Serial Entrepreneurs

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[This is a weekly series that brings you raw, first-hand experiences from founders and investors in the trenches. Their story submissions are anonymous, allowing them to share openly without fear of retribution. Every Wednesday, we’ll run one new story chosen by Dana Severson, who operates StartupsAnonymous, a place for startups to share, ask questions, and  answer them in story-length posts, all anonymously. You can share your own story here.]

Dear Super-gassed up entrepreneur that has millions in the bank,

Forgive my naiveté when it comes to starting a startup, for I am a fledgling entrepreneur learning to fly. But I challenge you to DO BETTER. Your past success is a golden ticket to Silicon Valley capital — capital that the likes of us first time CEOs can only dream of. Please use this power more wisely.

Please execute an idea that provides value.

The writings of Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Vinod Khosla and countless other gurus of the startup world highlight that the best ideas (1) pay attention to users and (2) solve their pain points. So how is it that you are able to get capital even though you aren’t doing this?

With your next startup product, please solve a real problem in the world.  Do we really need another photo-sharing app that let’s us #humblebrag to our friends through tiny images? I honestly doubt users were losing sleep because their older photo-sharing app was not cutting it anymore.

Please show us newbies that toiling over an idea that provides a core set of users with true value is more important than solving for “how can I get a bajillion users to download my app?”

Please do something different.

I bet even you have thought, “Do we really need another photo-sharing app?”

Please do something that no one else is doing.  Why spend time working on an idea that you know a friend is already working on? Think of the hours of design and development wasted by having two teams build out an app with the same underlying concept. Sure, the results may wind up being (kind of) different, but each team could have each been working on something that actually mattered.

And also, how’s that friendship going now?

Please set an example.

Whether you like it or not, you are a rock star to us hackers trying to make it. You are Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift to a new generation of dreamers-cum-makers. You are an athlete in the sport of business. You are idolized and you have an (involuntary) obligation to guide. I look up to you and emulate you because I want to be where you are. I celebrate your successes because it shows me that it is possible, that my work matters, and that the choices I’ve made (like quitting a high-paying job that was fun) are not for nothing.

Please don’t hog the limelight.

PR folks want stories from “somebodies,” but what they don’t realize is they have the power to transform a nobody into a somebody. So when you, as a “somebody” use your fame in the tech world to build beautiful yet useless apps for your small community of influencers, you steal from those that are trying to make a real difference. You become the story and that becomes one less opportunity for the underdogs to tell their story.

Please do not (ab)use me to make your money.

Revenue models need to be more inventive. I am all for you banking more millions, but please don’t do it at my expense. Selling access to your bajillion users via advertising is a cop out.  It dilutes the value of your product – and the user experience – to the point that no one wants to use it anymore.

Please forgive me for judging you.

As I write this, I am wondering if, as a new entrepreneur, I am adhering to these challenges. My answer is: I think so. I truly believe that the business my team is building solves a real customer pain point. In a few months we will launch and I will open the doors to your opinions.

Ultimately, I am by no means a Mother Theresa in tech, and I know that even I can do better.

Sincerely,

A member of the next generation

[photo by Stuart Conner]

PandoDaily

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