Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Startup Manifesto 1.0

Work = Happiness
Work is a major part of life; don’t treat as an isolated part of our life.

Too many people sacrifice their happiness and stick with a job which they dislike or hated just to put food on the table.

I must figure out a way to put food on the table while doing something which brings me happiness, and this is not an option.

Play by Strength and Passion
Understand what I am good at, and do something which could leverage on my strength. I shall accomplish more doing things I am good it and passionate about, thus making me happier.

I suck at sales (especially face-to-face closing), so I should not build a sales-centric business like Groupon.

I should not develop application which I have little understanding of or I’m not the intended users (no matter how lucrative or promising it might sounds), such as a CRM system.

I like developing Consumer Internet application and reasonably good at it, and I like to learn and experiment with growth hacking.

I always wanted to develop a game while I have little experience, which is fine as a weekend project, but this is unlikely to bring food on the table in the near future. Besides, I am not interested in building a commercially successful game, I wanted to build a game which I really like to play.

Understand and Choose Wisely
Opinions are the cheapest commodities on earth, so make sure we seek it from the right person. Jeff Hoffman put it perfectly, “Don't take advice from golfer if you want to play baseball”. If I want to validate an idea, ask the potential customers and users; then again, sometimes the customers doesn’t even know what they want :)

A startup could either choose to bootstrap or seek funding, but do understanding it’s a very different path which leads us to do things differently.

To bootstrap, I develop the app as I see fit (regardless of trend), grow it, iterate it and monetize it to achieve sustainability, then it’s quite a personal success. Understand that bootstrap has its financial limitation, so I can’t build a social network and go head on with Facebook. We probably have a better chance of survival by focusing locally, especially in non-US market (less competitions means cheaper to start and compete). There shall be no glamour.

To seek funding, I have to do pitching, convince strangers that it’s great idea, fit a typical founder profile (minimum 2 founder, serial entrepreneur, work in FB or Google before, etc.), get social proof by mingling with influential VCs, and probably pivot it into something to fit the current trend or the VC’s taste (and the VC might not understand the business more than you). Some ideas just won’t get funded, especially if the market is too small (must scale globally) or not disruptive enough (a review site is considered “old”, a social network is cool, and social photo sharing is the hype).

I was told making a deal with VC is selling your soul to the devil: If I can, I would rather avoid VC money; it probably also means I won’t be filthy rich or famous. I would rather spend my time hacking the product and let the market validate it. Then again, everything and everyone has a price (I don't pursuit the devil, but the devil might knock on my doors) :)

At times, I was hoping there would be a wise Guru to enlighten me, or an accelerator will spread some magic dust  to make my startup fly. What if Steve Jobs or Bill Gates is my mentor, would it make my startup successful? It probably would help in the sense they could help to open some doors, but I doubt anything beyond that. The magic is within me, and they are plenty ways and resources to learn from.

At the end of the day, what I really wanted is Freedom: the choice to do what I really wanted to do. My dream is to travel the world, then remotely manage my online kingdom :)

Taking VC money takes part of the freedom away: I am no longer the only boss, and I can’t just work on any idea without being backed up by some feasibility studies and convincing the investors. Is adult supervision really a good thing? Maybe, maybe not.

Going IPO brings in more money in exchange for less freedom as well: you no longer work on an idea because it’s good, you do it to squeeze more money for shareholder. There shall never be enough money.

The price to pay for Freedom? No glamour and doesn’t become filthy rich, but definitely a lot more peaceful and happy.

It’s like a child allowed to play with his toys without adult restrictions. To me, that's the ultimate happiness.

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