The first year

June 29, 2020

I don’t think non-founders will ever truly understand what it takes to get a startup off the ground unless and until they take the plunge themselves. It is, truly, a herculean effort. And it’s why, I believe, hustle culture should not have a bad rap: it’s not for everyone and should never be forced, but for those that want to start something, it is required and should be celebrated.

I’ve been around enough startups at this point to know that, without exception, the first year of a startup is absolutely, mind-boggling brutal. The creativity+grind required to validate an idea, build a product, market, sell, and ultimately even just get your first dollar in revenue is punishing. And typically it happens with almost no money or help.

The lore of startups typically involves passing mentions of the early-days (e.g. Airbnb selling boxes of cereal for the 2008 election) and the strategy and execution required to get to the inflection point that allowed the business to turn a corner. But rarely do we hear about the day-to-day decisions of this early time. The bulk of the story comes after the inflection point has hit and the company is now a rocketship.

I think it’s far more powerful for future founders to hear about that first year, when the company was failing left and right, experimenting, and seeing what works. The how-to, playbook material in this time period is a goldmine, and should be studied much more closely than the scale-up period that comes after.

This is something I’d like to put more time into, and prepare founders with better knowledge of how to get to the inflection point faster.