Sunday, September 09, 2012

Passion in Startup, how important is it?

I believe most people preach about the need of passion in startup, but I believe most investors don’t care shit about your passion. I believe most entrepreneurs started something because they see the potential, or because they have the advantage, or just by chance; no matter how inspiring the story of someone who turn their passion and hobby into a successful billion dollar company, but how many of us actually started with a passion. Or can you be passionate about money?

Should you be passionate about your business idea? A startup isn’t just about the idea (or the things the startup is supposed to do), but also about developing the business, growth, hacking and perhaps, make money? How many aspect of doing a startup is the founder supposed be passionate about?

As a programmer for a long time, obviously I am passionate about hacking (a more glamorous term for programming). I wanted to be a programmer for life, and I still do, and that’s the main reason I quit my job (so that I don’t have to turn into a manager for the sake of career advancement). I do the occasional cursing, but the power of creation is just too awesome to let go. I might not be the best, but it doesn’t matter, as long as I can create stuffs which I am interested in. Since I can do it well, and love it, so I should do it more often (freelancing and startup seems to fit the profile).

Am I supposed to be passionate about the business idea? One of my early ideas is about Document Management System (the idea is born out of convenience because I used to work for a company which make such product); it might seems like a nice product to build and use, and the market is there, but I didn’t develop it. Then I thought it would be cool to build something to keep track of property prices, since none is available in the market; I did develop it to a certain extent, but didn’t follow through the end. It is not something I am passionate about (property market), just that I happens to be looking for some property during that time. Then I wanted to develop an application to keep track of grocery prices (because I started doing grocery shopping more frequently after marriage), and an application to keep track of events (hoping to find some cool events, but there are only exhibitions and party which I no longer interested in). All the ideas and ventures probably born out of convenience, or to serve my own needs; so far none of them “succeed”, but one survived. I understand that a interesting idea or monetary reward is not enough to make it happen.

I develop a Restaurant Review app, and it did take off in Malaysia. I develop it to scratch my own itch as well, to find good restaurants to bring my girlfriend to. Many thoughts I am good at “Cari Makan” (finding good food), but it’s the exact opposite; it’s because I don’t know where the good food are, that’s why I need an app to help me with it. I always ask myself, why this idea takes off? Perhaps I have some ideas to solve the chicken and egg problems (I apply the same strategy to subsequent apps, but it didn’t quite work), perhaps I am in the right market (restaurant review vs. property/grocery prices) or perhaps I started at the right time (the competitors are fairly weak during that time). Do I have passion for restaurant/food review? I am not quite sure, but I like trying out new places at times, and sometimes I do really need a helping hand to find suitable places (solving my problems). I am not a food critic (contributors), but I would like to find out interesting food places (consumers). Perhaps one of the important elements is that I eat my own dog food: I use the app, and still found it more useful than other apps.

Whenever good ideas crop up in my mind or some friends suggested we work on something together, I always asked would I be passionate about the idea and interested to use the end product; profitability and market size is my last consideration; and a good strategy to penetrate the market is essential (hope for the best doesn’t count).

How do we know that we are passionate about something (in startup context)?

  • Knowing your startup doesn’t make enough money, you will still push on.
  • You will do things to create a better product, a better user experience, a better solution.
  • You try to forget about it or put it aside, but it will still come back to haunt you.
  • You will use the product you created, and feel that it’s the best product.
  • You believe that you could and will do it for life.
  • Whatever makes you doesn’t hate Monday, and probably motivate you to work 7 days per week.

I understand that sometimes we do things for survival out of necessity, and I understand and respect that; but bear in mind that this is just an interim phase, the heart’s desire will outdo the mind’s logic eventually. Sometimes I tried to work on elements which focus on logicality without interest, but I just can’t seems to pull it through: the mind can’t do what the heart doesn’t believe in. Passion could be overrated (it is supposed to be good for you, but not many actually believe it), but I am a true believer. Without passion as the foundation, eventually things will not hold up and fall into pieces. It is not that things will definitely work out with passion, but it probably wouldn't last without it. The mind and heart need to go in sync to achieve happiness, and work is not an isolated part of life which we constantly sacrifice on.

To truly gain freedom in life, we need to find passion and go for the dream :)

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