Money is a Rotten Motivator for Startup Founders
I find most startup founders fall into two camps:
- those that are open and free with their pursuit of money
- those who are ashamed of their desire for money
There is nothing wrong with wanting money, or even wanting lots and lots of money. The problem with most founders is that they see and treat startups as a fast way to get to loads of money.
Let’s say creating a company is like building a chair.
Someone sees a startup sell to Facebook for $1B in 18 months and says: I can build a chair and sell it for $1B in 18 months too. They proceed to find the crappiest pieces of wood they can, and as quickly as they can. They slap the wood together with some old rusty nails in the vague shape of a really fucked up primitive chair. When they are done, they wonder why nobody acquires them or whey no customers even want to use what they built. Finally, they give up and take a programming job at LivingSocial.
That’s why money is such a bad motivator for startup founders. You have to really love building startups for the sake of building startups. To stay in the game long enough to see a great outcome–you need motivation with stamina. If 1 in 10 startups succeed, then you have to be ready to do 10 startups in a row if you want to ensure a victory. You have to really love building chairs and be willing to build a bunch of crappy chairs knowing that you need practice to build a great one.
Wanting money is fine. Wanting free time is fine. Wanting financial independence is fine.
But startups are fucking brutal. They will chew you up and spit you out.
- Bullshit: your hope for eventually making a lot of money is not strong enough to make it worth while doing 10 startups in a row
- Bullshit: the bet that eventually you will have free time is no comfort when you have to lay off your staff
- Bullshit: the idea of financial independence is not enough to get you through the hard times in even a single startup
Your motivation for doing startups needs to be much deeper than money if you want to have a chance to make real money in startups. You have to love the craft. You have to love building chairs for the sake of building chairs. It is not easy work. It is often not fun work. But it can be very gratifying work to build a startup (or a chair) that stands the test of time.
About the Author
Lucas Carlson is a hands-on consultant, author and entrepreneur. He helps founders discover opportunities for growth, both for their companies and for themselves. He was the CEO and founder of AppFog, a popular startup acquired in 2013 after signing up over 100,000 developers and raising nearly $10M in venture funding from top angels and VCs.