I'm Tired Of These Armchair Entrepreneurs. Your Opinion Means Bugger-all To Me.
by Phillip Rhodes
Posted on Monday April 08, 2013 at 05:36PM in Technology
Every where you turn lately, there seems to be someone who’s more than happy to dispense advice on how to be an entrepreneur, or - more to the point - dispense their opinion on who, exactly is or is not a “real” entrepreneur. Somehow, without ever having met you, and without knowing anything about you, your partners, your company, your customers, your market, your products, your competition, your funding, your complements, or any-fucking-thing else relevant, these people “know” how committed you are, how likely you are to succeed, when you should quit your dayjob, and everything else.
On the one hand you have people telling you that if you haven’t quit your dayjob yet, then you aren’t a “real entrepreneur”. Then you have people telling you that “older founders” aren’t as “committed” as younger ones. Next have people with fancy schmancy titles, like “VP of Entrepreneurship” at places like the Kauffman Foundation issuing decrees from on high, like:
“Unless there are real consequences for failure—until you’ve personally guaranteed a line of credit and tried to sell your product to an actual human being,” says Ruhe, “you won’t have the motivation needed to build a business that matters” -- Thom Ruhe, VP of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation
Now, I don't know who Thom Ruhe is, and I don't really care. But what I know is that this armchair quarterback with his fancy title, working for some foundation somewhere, knows bloody fucking bugger-all about my motivation, or lack thereof. You want to talk to me about motivation, dude? Quit your job at the Kauffman Foundation and come work with us. We offer no pay, no benefits (not even free coffee), long hours, sleepless nights, stress beyond belief, non-stop fear of failure, and an equity stake that could make you really wealthy if we succeed. Would you be motivated to take that swap, in order to gain the satisfaction of doing your own thing, the freedom of not having a "boss" and the sense of accomplishment that goes into building something? No? Well, guess what... we are. So unless you want to take me up on my offer, don't fucking talk to me about motivation.
Even from local organizations like CED, nominally dedicated to advancing entrepreneurship in NC, you get them telling you that “you can’t take advantage of our mentoring service yet, because you’re too early stage.” Wait, what? If we weren’t early stage, we probably wouldn’t be looking for bleeding mentors! Isn’t the idea for mentors to help, well, mentor, people with less experience, to help them avoid the obvious mistakes, and to shorten their learning curve? It just never stops...
And of course there are always plenty of people at any startup oriented networking event you attend, who are happy to criticize you, tell you that you need to “pivot”, or point out that you will be competing against $BIGCO and should therefore not bother. Again, without any specific knowledge of your startup, they somehow know all this stuff.
You know what I think? I think if all of these people are so bleeding brilliant, or prescient, they need to start a startup of their own, or head down to the local convenient store and pick up a handful of lottery tickets... or maybe head to the horse track. Because, honestly, I’m tired of hearing your opinions. Advice and constructive criticism are cool, especially when they are rooted in some actual meaningful context or experience, and when you actually know us, our team, our products, etc. Ultimately, the only opinions I care about are mine, my co-founder’s, and the people we’re selling to - along with a very select subset of people who have *demonstrated* to us that they have something constructive to add.
We are here on a mission and we have a company to build. So unless your advice is somehow directly contributing to advancing our cause, I really don't care what you think. Whether it’s the handful of local mentors / advisors we consult, or a few “net celebrities” like Paul Graham or Steve Blank, we listen to these people, because they offer actionable, useful, constructive advice and information. The rest of you can bugger off, and settle back into your armchairs to do some more Monday Morning quarterbacking.
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