Wednesday, October 31, 2012

If you don't succeed with your startup. It's not your fault. If you're not successful, it is your fault

When startups fail (and the vast majority must, by the laws of probability), it's hard not to search for a scapegoat. After all, doesn't everyone deserve a glowing profile in TechCrunch?

Often, embittered entrepreneurs fall back on two explanations: Luck, and connections.

The luck-blamers take the position that startups are a crapshoot. "It's all a matter of luck. If we weren't unlucky, I would be Mark Zuckerberg."

The connections-conspiracy theorists take the opposite position--"they" are rigging the game. "Everyone knows that she'd buddies with Arrington. That's why they get all that coverage."

They're both right.

Luck plays a huge role in startup success. Out of every 1,000 startups, only 6 succeed in making money for investors. Do you think the right 6 always succeed?

Connections are also key. A VC can't fund a firm she never meets. It's no secret that the best way to get a meeting is to know the VC already.

But what gets me is that the blamers and haters don't take the next logical step--turning what they perceive as the world's unfairness to their advantage.

If you think it's all about luck, why aren't you trying more things?

If you think it's all about connections, why aren't you out trying to make those connections?

If you think you know the formula for success (getting lucky, knowing the right people), why not follow it?

If you don't succeed with your current startup. It's not your fault. But if you're not successful in your career, it is your fault.


ranndino said...

Trying to make connections are a tough thing. I personally can't stand people running around some convention or conference having fake 2 min convos with people who they think might be of use to them and sticking them with their business card as they're running away because they've spotted a bigger fish.

It makes me not want to be like them. What would you recommend as a way to do it that doesn't make you look like a used car salesman?

Chris said...


The key to networking is to focus on the other person. Learn about them. What you want is to figure out if they're interesting. If they are, get contact information, and set up a follow-up appointment. Nothing meaningful gets done in those 2-minute conversations.

As long as you focus on helping others, people will consider you a master networker.

Foobarista said...

The "luck" business reminds me of the recent World Series, which many pundits thought the Giants had "all the breaks":

1. If you don't hit the ball, you won't get lucky bounces. It's hard to get a bad-hop single or bloop double if you strike out.

2. Being in the right defensive position makes it easier to make "luck" plays on hot-shot liners, etc. Coaching helps here.

3. Being faster helps in both offense and defense; slower guys are more likely to get thrown out on the bases than faster guys, and faster defenders get to more balls.

Old baseball saying: luck is the residue of design.

Chris said...


Exactly. No one forced the Tigers to field a team of bad defenders, and to rely on the long ball against a strong pitching staff.