Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Impatience Kills Startups
We live today in am impatient world. In many ways, that's good. We're unwilling to wait for the world to change; instead we go out and change it. But this impatience has a cost.
People tend to view startups these days as overnight successes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most successful startups had a long gestation period during which an impatient person would have concluded that they were going nowhere.
Seth Godin calls it "the dip"--the valley of death every new idea has to survive.
Take PBworks, which has taken five years to grow from a hackathon project into a substantial business. David Weekly spent 18 months working on the project, by himself, without pay. If he had given up after 6 months, PBworks wouldn't exist today.
Twitter was born from the failure of Odeo. Ev had been incredibly patient with Blogger, roughing it out brought some very lean times. When Odeo failed to catch fire, Ev and he team persisted, convinced that they were on to something with Twitter. Twitter itself was a curiosity for many years before breaking into the mainstream.
But perhaps a homier story will be even more illustrative. A few years back, a friend of mine decided to create a blog network. He bought some domain names, set up WordPress, and started paying a couple of freelance writers.
When he started, no one read his blogs. And I have to say, I was pretty skeptical of his business prospects, especially since his blogs covered well worn topics like food, sports, and gadgets.
Fast-forward two years and his little blog empire generates $10,000 per month in revenues, growing fast. It's already profitable, and in a few more months, he might even be making enough to quit his day job (though I doubt he will).
And thanks to his patience, my friend is in a great position to start future companies. He has a source of income, and can use he remnant advertising inventory from his network as a low-cost marketing tool. I'm sure he wishes it had taken less time, but I guarantee that he's glad he was patient.
P.S. In the couple of months it's taken for me to transfer this post from my iPod to this blog, my friend has grown his blog network to a $50,000 per month run rate. I think that just reinforces my original point--growth can be explosive once you reach the tipping point. But it might take years of toil to get to that point.