Building a startup is a whole lot like starting a love relationship. Oh, as you go further into the journey, such as raising a series A, term sheet negotiation with institutional investors is pretty much identical to signing a prenuptial agreement. But let’s be patient, we will get to that later. Everyone has to start off somewhere.
How things usually get started…
See, a lot of people starting startups these days are similar to high school kids seeking for their first relationship, or literally their first date (yes, I know some people start much earlier…).
Maybe it is peer pressure or maybe they think it’s just the right thing to do given the circumstances, but most people usually start off wanting to get connected just because of curiosity or the perceived excitement. Look, let’s admit it, we have all done/contemplated it before.
It is really not as bad as it sounds and it is completely cool to start things off this way, as Darwin would argue. Most people do try to get rid of their virginity at some point, alright, or enjoy the thrill of holding someone’s hand, kissing someone for the first time or whatever high school kids do these days.
Well, they always — well, they never go well…
I wanted to say, “well, they always go wrong.” Then I thought, “no, they never go well.” So basically, they always, never go well.
While we do hear the occasional high school sweetheart stories (literally Mark’s story both personal and business), most of us have to go through those crazy heartbreak moments as these relationships don’t usually go well the first time (yes, they seem so unimportant now, but it wasn’t then, was it?).
There are of course many reasons for things not turning out as we have planned, but most of all, it is because we are seeking for the relationship (i.e. sex) rather than the person. That’s why people like Paul Graham stress so much on doing something that you love!
Yes, it is important that you actually love the startup project or business that you are working on (and develop expertise on it), instead of falling in love with the romance of being an entrepreneur, founder or CEO (of a zero employee company). Oh, by the way, drop that serial entrepreneur title of yours, it is silly. Unless you are highly successful like Elon, it’s just like saying you are a serial-being-dumped-by-someone. It’s really not as cool as you think.
So you want to find true love?
Alright, don’t go sentimental on me. At least you are a bit more serious now (probably because you have tried whatever you wanted to try). Since you have gone to a few startup competitions, hackathons and reached out to a few random people on LinkedIn asking for mentorship and investment, you know you are not getting anywhere (again probably because you asked it the way you asked your Dad for pocket money).
You’ve realized printing a name card with a CEO title (but with no office address) and building a landing page on WordPress (but with no real substance of anything) feel a bit empty. Sex is never overrated but you now want to build a real relationship.
You want to build something that is at least worth saying, “till death do us part” to a bunch of friends and half-known relatives. Yes, divorce is very real but it’s such a negative thought. At least you don’t need this thought at this part of your startup relationship. Now, you want to march forward. Congratulations, you are finally starting to build a real startup relationship.
Real relationships are…
So you have come to understand a real relationship is not about going to movies or doing volunteering on the holidays in an exotic country with your loved ones. Real relationships are about doing dishes after you had three pints or taking the trash out when there is only two minutes left in a live playoffs game.
Why you still want to stick with this relationship then? Because it’s like a startup that you are committed to. So forget about those flexi-working hours or the never-used ping pong table in the fancy office. It’s about writing codes that people can’t write (so effectively) and it’s about getting (begging) people to buy/use your services/products.
It’s not that glamorous at all. Remember the market is just like your ex. They really don’t give a damn about how you feel (no matter what you want to believe). Still, you know everything you are doing for your startup is all worthwhile because you are building that real relationship, that real startup (that hopefully makes more money than Snap).
How do you find your Mr/Ms Right?
Now you are becoming too demanding. How on earth would I know? If you think reading a few blogs will help you decide on the big decisions, then you are wrong (but, keep reading, anyway). One thing I can tell you for sure, this Mr/Ms Right (so tiring to be gender sensitive these days…) is going to be a weirdo. Why? Because you are a weirdo too!
No normal human being would want to go through the real steps of starting a startup. You have to be like a marathon runner — not their physique — but their desire to go through tortures. No, not the pain you get from that fifty-shades-of-grey stuff.
Most importantly, a weirdo-to-weirdo relationship is what makes this world go, the real driving force behind how a human actually develops and reproduces — the way the desired relationship is sustainable — and hopefully how our economy grows too.
And, that’s why at this stage you only need…
Counsellors. I have no idea why the whole startup ecosystem is crazy about mentors and advisors. In fact, anyone from the corporate world who wants to venture into the startup world usually brands themselves as advisors. Seriously, why everyone thinks startups need help and what makes them think they are qualified for the job?
Look, I have had my fair share of crazy relationships, but I don’t think I (or anyone for that matter) should advise on others’ relationships. Unless you are Jerry Springer of course. All we can do is share and empathize with our friends who also need to do the dishes and take the trash out.
Therefore, just like you should not let people tell you how your love relationship should go, you don’t need advice on your startup problems at this stage (particular from those who are not stakeholders). Because simply it’s none of their business. Just find something you love, build that relationship and enjoy the fruits of the journey.
(I prefer to counsel on love relationships more so than startups, but you are welcome to send me questions on either of the topics!)
This piece originally appeared on Startup Grind, the global entrepreneurship community. https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/hows-your-relationship-going-with-your-startup/