5 BS Myths About Starting A Startup Debunked

July 20, 2014

8:00 pm

NPH_side_eyeHaving “your first” comes with plenty of unsolicited advice and a little side eye. For instance, during my first startup, my mom gave me more than side-eye. I got full-on stink eye!


Kind of like having kids or getting married, suddenly people who haven’t even given you a pity Facebook like in months are stepping in with plenty of advice. You don’t know how many startup “experts” you have in your circles until you make the announcement that you’re going from entrepreneur wannabe to the real deal.

The good news (and bad news) is that there are plenty of BS “facts” about starting a startup that simply aren’t true or at least aren’t true the majority of the time. However, like the stranger pretending to be your dog under the bed and licking your palms, these urban legends refuse to die. Here are some of the biggest loads you’ll likely hear from supposedly well intentioned folks.

1. Follow your dreams and you’ll always succeed!

Illustration by Spike Lumens. Sorry, no. If that were true, there would be a whole lot of kids riding around on Pegasus unicorns that are powered by rainbows. Dreams can be a great thing, but they can also be your downfall. Just because you dream about opening a Paleo savory bakery where “cupcakes” are made out of meatloaf with mashed potato frosting doesn’t mean it’s going to go over in a community full of vegans.

(Aside: I dream of making $1,000 for every Kansas City Royals baseball game that I watch while simultaneously eating a maple bacon doughnut and never gaining an ounce of weight. I also dream of creating a time machine and going back to 1952, buying a bunch of Mickey Mantle rookie cards, going to 1987, selling them and buying Microsoft stock.  Then going to 1991 selling MSFT and buying AOL stock for cheap… then heading to 1996 and selling AOL and buying Yahoo stock… then heading to 2001 and selling Yahoo and buying APPL stock for $13 a share. etc. etc.  Those dreams haven’t panned out yet. Doc Brown, WHERE ARE YOU?? ).

2. That’s a stupid idea.

bad-ideaNot everyone is going to be on board with your startup, and that’s okay. On the other hand, maybe it really is a stupid idea. You can figure out which is which by mapping out a business plan, doing your research, and getting help from real professionals (not your grandmother who doesn’t even know what a social media platform is). Haters gonna hate—but sometimes they do know what they’re talking about.

You have to trust your intuition.  If you can get others on board with your idea and actively wanting to join your startup, you may be on to something.  Then again, your idea still may be shit.

3. You’re either going to be a billionaire overnight or broke forever.

make-it-rain-azizThere seems to be no middle ground with startups, but the reality is that you probably won’t get rich and (if you do the right planning) you hopefully won’t be broke forever. The goal of a startup is often to work for yourself doing work that’s relatively enjoyable and make a decent wage at it.

Find your passion.  Don’t worry about the money, do something that you love that makes a positive impact on the world.  Sure, there will be another Zuckerberg in your lifetime probably—but chances are you aren’t him… that’s because I’m the next overnight billionaire. So get in line!

4. Every startup fails.

failureWell, this simply isn’t true because if it were there would be no small businesses. However, it is true that somewhere around 75 percent of startups fail and some industries are more volatile than others. According to a recent Bloomberg study, 8 out of 10 startups fail within the first 18 months. For example, the vast majority of new restaurants shut their doors for good in the first year.

However, you can go all Hunger Games and stack the odds in your favor by doing your prep work beforehand. Know your market, know your own skills, be realistic, don’t make stupid mistakes that countless others before you have and don’t burn through your cash on unnecessary things. If you can learn from the demise of others, do so—otherwise, you might be proving number two on this list correct.

5. You’ll be living the dream.

work-loveThis kind of depends on what “the dream” is. If you dream of working 80 hours per week, going without paying yourself at times in order to pay your employees, dealing with nightmarish paperwork and a bunch of people saying “I told you so,” then yes, you’ll be living the dream right away.

However, if you work hard, avoid stupid faux pas and stay determined, the real dream might just be your reality (an overnight success… in only about five or more years).

I’m now on my fourth startup.  This one is more of a marketing technology consultancy firm, CCP Digital. This is after an advertising technology startup, Adiqus, an artist incubation startup in 1999, MethodLab, an SEO firm, and an ad agency, Advangel. Some have been way more successful than others.  On the journey, I’ve learned a ton.  I love this space, so I keep moving forward.

The moral of the story is, if your first startup doesn’t work.  Keep trucking.  The American dream? It’s still alive and kicking, baby, for those who stay foolish and stay hungry. Treat yo’self to a slice.

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Venture Catalyst, Tech Journalist, Keynote Speaker, CMTO, StandUp Comic, Marketing Technology Entrepreneur, Data & Analytics Geek, Startup Growth Hacker. My Tweet-Fu is Strong. @teedubya His blog is TravisWright.com and feel free to connect with TW on LinkedIn.

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