big-small-sumo

At risk of reiterating a common piece of advice given by those who run out of things to write about on their blogs, I want to talk about starting small. In a world of unicorn startups and child prodigies making millions in the app store, many Americans believe they, too, can found the next Facebook. This idea transcends the American Dream. People have stopped talking about working hard their whole lives and climbing the corporate ladder in favor of amassing wealth and power equivalent to 19th-century industrialists. My opinion is that this idea that reaching for the stars as an alternative to working hard, consistently, and, potentially, menially,  often manifests itself in a way that people are doomed to fail from the get-go.

You can say my generation’s obsession with entrepreneurship is due to the fact that we 1. are lazy 2. want to be original and seek status and 3. have been inundated with examples of survivorship bias (everyone who makes it to the news, magazines, Wikipedia, or Harvard seems successful) since birth. I agree with that statement.

The problem isn’t ambition. The problem is that people, especially those without expert-level skills or significant industry experience, are thinking too big. “The Next Facebook”- okay, what’s your first step? “A New LinkedIn”- how do you think this is going to work? “A better Yik Yak”- why? “A 3D Printer that will blow away the competition”- I don’t think so. These are ideas that have been pitched to me. Most were dead in the water before anything resembling a prototype surfaced.

Rather than fixating on the (statistical) equivalent of hitting the lottery, why aren’t people thinking about earning some beer money? Grocery money? Rent money? Starting a sustainable side-business with the potential of scaling later? Getting a minimum viable product out before uttering the word “equity” to “that one guy who can program”?

It goes without saying that many successful startups started small, realized they could make a power play, and did. In lieu of starting to cite case studies and the book Zero to One, I recommend you conjure up your grandest idea and just take it down a few pegs. The world would be a happier, more innovative place. And maybe college students with in-demand skills would have to stop worrying about what that new “friend of a” friend really wants.

 

Starting Small