The Startup media circus
It’s not because you say something on TV or via social networks, that it creates value, it’s because you do it successfully all the way. Social networks have distorted reality. I would argue that the more you see people posting on social networks, or simply being in the media, the less impacting they are. The real startup heroes are the ones you do not see.
I have been involved in the startup ecosystem for more than 25 years, and I’m starting to feel uncomfortable with this PR circus. The current situation is portraying a strange image, that in the end, might damage the real people, behind real projects, trying to do real things.
What do people see? They see a new economy, creating enormous value in no time, and the emergence of a modern hero, the entrepreneur.
They also see the exaggeration created, valuations that seem totally unreasonable, the portrait of successes that keep on losing billions of dollars, or entrepreneurs that lost their way. The value created is such that it’s changed the social equilibrium in some places. In San Francisco, living as a nurse, a policeman, a musician, or a teacher has become impossible; a one-bedroom rent goes over $4,500 per month.
This promised land fuels entrepreneurship, that’s a good thing. However, not everyone is meant to become an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur has nothing to do with becoming a social media starlet.
Being an entrepreneur is hard, really hard.
It starts with faith. Faith in the team, in the market, in the ability to overcome incredible challenges. In the beginning, no reasoning can stand the test; it’s just pure faith, and most of the time, pure insanity. So yes, “fake it until you make it” and prove the world wrong. However, at one point, you cannot fake it anymore. You need to deliver or die.
Delivering is incredibly hard. The better founders are the ones you do not see. They do not have time to go to another startup competition, even less to go to another startup conference. Being a social network phenomenon is not their concern. They need to deliver.
I am starting to see entrepreneurs thinking that media coverage is a form of delivery. It’s not because you’ve raised money, and got a TechCrunch article, that you accomplished anything. Don’t celebrate fundraising, celebrate new clients, don’t celebrate a thousand likes on social networks, celebrate product milestones.
With the promise of this new economy, it has created an ever-growing ecosystem. We see entrepreneurs mixing up with politicians, investors, media, corporations, and a large number of “supporting” initiatives, starting with a simple consultant to more structured programs. That ecosystem, for the most part, is leveraging the startup energy to fuel its own PR. They want to become the heroes, using the entrepreneurship hype.
However, once again, you rarely see the one working on delivering. What you see is young entrepreneurs sucked into the PR machine, and an ever-growing number of parasites trying to tell the world that they know what to do.
Let’s be clear no-one knows, running a startup is deciding to know. It’s a school of humility; being wrong and right is normal; being scared and confident is natural. It’s no fun. It’s incredibly stressful. It does not pay well. Entrepreneurship is not the new cool.
I have immense respect for entrepreneurs, I am one of them. Let’s not make it a PR circus that makes entrepreneurs look like brats.