Love of the Game: Be foolish enough to believe your startup will make it.


A close friend of mine has been struggling with his startup for the past 2 years. He’s dropped out of school to work on it full time and is still working hard on gaining traction. He has recently moved back to his parents house so he could keep his expenses low and not have to take any funding. His diet primarily consists of Ramen Noodles and whatever fruit is on sale. His income is under $15k a year.

His lifestyle isn’t this way because he lacks options. He’s turned down Angel funding on 4 separate occasions. Within the past week he’s turned down two different jobs (which would have require him to quit his startup) where both companies were offering six figure salaries. Many of his friends called him foolish.

He isn’t looking at the startup world with rose-colored glasses. He knows that entrepreneurship is a bipolar existence. You can embrace his idea or dismiss it, but you can’t ever shake his faith that his startup will make it. Job security, comfort, and money paled in comparison to the thought of him building a startup.

As I’ve talked to more entrepreneurs about my friends experience, I’ve discovered his story isn’t unique. Many entrepreneurs are driven by an intrinsic belief that what they’re working on truly matters. Despite all the odds stacked against them, they believe their startup will succeed.

This sort of lifestyle can only come from a love of the game and belief in your startup. I absolutely love this about the startup community. Just remember, you’re not entitled to anything. Hustle for everything you’re worth.

Be foolish enough to believe you’ll make it.

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  • Neofliplay

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  • This article should be set to be re-published every 3 months … sometimes we just need to be reminded. 🙂

  • While I agree with everything written (and from my own experience, can say that this happens just as well in Brazil), when is it *not* foolish to take up some funding and expand from five figure profits to six, seven or more? Far from being critical, I am actually curious as to when your friend thinks his start-up will go from 15k to something worthwhile… I love working hard, and the pride one has of saying that they own their own company can’t be compared to many things.. but wouldn’t it be better to split a bigger pie, rather to completely own a small muffin?

  • While I agree with everything written (and from my own experience, can say that this happens just as well in Brazil), when is it *not* foolish to take up some funding and expand from five figure profits to six, seven or more? Far from being critical, I am actually curious as to when your friend thinks his start-up will go from 15k to something worthwhile… I love working hard, and the pride one has of saying that they own their own company can’t be compared to many things.. but wouldn’t it be better to split a bigger pie, rather to completely own a small muffin?

    • Anonymous

      My friend isn’t against taking money, he just felt like he didn’t need it. He thinks he’s really close to a breakthrough, and didn’t want to give away any of the equity because he thinks he can do it by himself.

      There are definitely times when taking money is the right decision, but he doesn’t feel like this is one of them.

  • JG

    I’m sorry, but I think this is a classic failure mode. From the comments -> He hasn’t taken money or any co-founders because he just didn’t feel like he needed it or want to give up the equity.

    Hmm. Working in a cave on your own is a great way to burn time and energy on a rabbit hole. If it’s such a great idea, convince some others to join you, give up some of your precious equity and get some momentum. How much do you lose by working alone in the dark for 2 years when you could building a team and working with others. Adding the second person yields disproportionate returns – (2 people working well together get far more than twice as much done as 1 person alone.) Is there any competition for this idea? Are they working at the same snails pace? (And if the answer is no – that’s not necessarily a good idea either…)

    • No

      I’ve found that other people are not likely to have the ambition, work ethic, or reliability that you have. Even if they might have the actual technical knowledge. It’s better to toil by yourself than try and coax another person into your inner circle and have them undermine everything. ESPECIALLY for free (or an equity stake in what will probably net you nothing anyway).

      • In italian we say “better alone than in bad company”*. But I

        * we actually say: “meglio solo che male accompagnato”.

    • John

      No man is an island springs to mind here, i very much agree with you JG

      Meaning

      Human beings do not thrive when isolated from others.

  • No

    The problem is that most ideas are stupid. How many cloud storage solutions do we need? Not another one, that’s for sure. How about Twitter? A stupid idea. It wasn’t a solution to anything — we already had SMS and email and websites and RSS. Countless ways to reach a large audience. The only reason twitter was huge was praying on the stupidity of the average person who can’t figure out how to send email. Further, simply believing in your idea “really hard” doesn’t make it worth while I throw away ideas left and right, because they’re not worthy. There’s no point in doing something that doesn’t solve problems (ie, is just a “me too!” or “you’re stupid, so you’ll like this!” idea).

  • Amanda Drury

    How do you know when to take the money and when to stick it out on your own?

    • I feel like that’s a natural decision you’ll be able to make when the time comes (as long as other factors like the ability to work without making money are possible, too). If you really feel deep down passionately about your start-up and your ambitions, then the money won’t even be a consideration. I think that’s the point with this article and the story about his friend, where none of the regular aspects that most workers think about (money, time, job level) are even important to him because he so believes in his start-up and his idea. At least, that’s exactly how I felt/I feel.

    • John

      I would imagine that when sticking it out for a while on your own is simply not working as good as hoped and when in the back of your mind you know that the available money is the thing holding it back if not accepted.

  • I like the motivational writing that you are writing and the style!

  • I love it, this is so true. I’ve gone through the exact same thing, literally everything written here is pretty much similar to my own experience. Even quitting school and moving in with my parents to get things going at the start, to turning down jobs and so on. I even had a Facebook-like beginning where a co-founder wanted more money later on and I nearly went to court with him, but you’re right, you’re so damn right: “You can embrace his idea or dismiss it, but you can’t ever shake his faith that his startup will make it. Job security, comfort, and money paled in comparison to the thought of him building a startup.”

    I just love the ideas in this and the more subconscious motivation/inspiration that comes from it. Some people will probably read this and scoff or laugh at the idea, but those are probably the same people who only want a 9to5 job they’ll probably hate anyway. They don’t have the same passion and desire to create something on their own and really make it something out of their own (endless) hard work. But the right person will find this rejuvenating.

    I’m definitely going to start reading this blog more, I love these kind of posts, keep ’em coming!

    • John

      But people can be so passionate about something to the point of ignoring things, basically passion doesn’t pay the bills, and theres the risk of spending so long on something that isn’t working out that then pride stops the person from calling it a day and instead they continue with that endless thought of one day it will take off.

    • John

      Note the word “foolish” in the title though.

  • It would be interesting to compare and contrast how long some startup founders are going the ramen route for… I’ve been at this for a little under a year.. it’s been painful and fun.. but “reality” is always screaming at me by the end of the day.

  • ..but I agree with JG. Look for the great people that have ambition, work ethic, etc… Agree to share equity once that has been demonstrated. I also think funding increases chances of success dramatically, and adds in accountability and recognition you badly need at that stage. (Just my 2 cents).

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