Cafe Witness

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Startup Advice

Startup guru Paul Graham has a wealth of practical and inspirational information available for people looking to start their own small businesses. While his experience is primarily web and tech-based, most of his theories are applicable to whatever field you happen to be eyeing up.

One recent post offers a summary of The Hardest Lessons for Startups to Learn. He lists seven, including "Make Users Happy," "Fear the Right Things" and "Don't Get Your Hopes Up," all of which seem like common sense and, therefore, probably are not.

The whole essay is worth reading, but I thought his conclusion really nailed an aspect of the startup jones that a lot of people miss:

So why do I spend so much time thinking about startups? I'll tell you why. Economically, a startup is best seen not as a way to get rich, but as a way to work faster. You have to make a living, and a startup is a way to get that done quickly, instead of letting it drag on through your whole life.

We take it for granted most of the time, but human life is fairly miraculous. It is also palpably short. You're given this marvellous thing, and then poof, it's taken away. You can see why people invent gods to explain it. But even to people who don't believe in gods, life commands respect. There are times in most of our lives when the days go by in a blur, and almost everyone has a sense, when this happens, of wasting something precious. As Ben Franklin said, if you love life, don't waste time, because time is what life is made of.

So no, there's nothing particularly grand about making money. That's not what makes startups worth the trouble. What's important about startups is the speed. By compressing the dull but necessary task of making a living into the smallest possible time, you show respect for life, and there is something grand about that.

Cheers to Paul for putting a human face on something frequently (and falsely) seen only as a get-rich-quick scheme. Who wants to spend more time at work? Exactly.


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