5 Bullsh!t Want-repreneur excuses for not being as big as they could be (& my responses)

May 28, 2013
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startup-guys

Honestly, I can feel that we’ve gone over the peak of the “entrepreneurship is awesome” hype curve, and I for one would like to accelerate its descent. Just as much as I’m tired of seeing startups trying to build the ecosystem they are trying to make money off of, so am I tired of hearing people blaming the company’s demise on the government, the economy, or the ecosystem. Every company that has ever succeeded – whether Apple or Microsoft or Facebook or Samsung – has succeeded despite the government, despite the economy, and despite the ecosystem.

Stop blaming “the ecosystem” for your shortcomings – Rome was built on farmland. Here are my responses to the 5 bullshit excuses that Want-repreneurs give me every day for why they aren’t as big as they could be.

There’s just no investment money here! If only we were in the Silicon Valley….

First, why are you only looking for investors in *|COUNTRY|* ? Look in London (Passion Capital, Notion Capital, etc.), look at Sunstone, look at Earlybird Ventures or Point Nine Capital. Look at Elaia, Alven, Partech, Ventech, 360 Capital Partners in France – look at Index, Accel and Balderton who are investing across Europe as well. If you limit your investment possibilities to your home country, your problem for getting investment isn’t the country, it’s probably that investors can sense that you’re unable to internationalize. In France, plenty of companies did series A and Seed Capital outside of France – more than 50% of French investment came from outside of France. If you can’t see beyond your borders, investors will be able to tell, and they won’t invest in national companies just to watch them die in 5 years. Go make $1 Billion and I’m sure you’ll find more investors coming to *|COUNTRY|*.

Why even start a company with the government we’ve got? It’s impossible to scale…

Recent Apple news has shown us that even the US Government has trouble with tech companies – Governments aren’t designed to help companies grow. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be, but that’s not how they are designed, and if you plan on waiting until they change, you were never meant to start a company anyway. No entrepreneur has ever succeeded “because of” the government – for companies, a government is the last remaining mafia that exists today: you have to pay into their schemes, whether you want their help or not, because you opened up shop on their turf. This may change, but not anytime soon – so suck it up and stop playing “our government’s worse than theirs.” Go make $1 Billion and then you can sit down and have a chat with governments about how they should change.

The real problem is finding the right talent – developers are hard to find, and I need the best ones!

There are two ways to find talent:

1) Go out and find them

2) Steal them from other companies

Deezer cofounder Daniel Marhely asked me a while back if I knew any great front-end developers that they could hire in France. I told him all the best front-end developers were already working for startups or working on their own startup, so he could either poach them or acqui-hire them.

Do you think you’d have an easier time competing with Pinterest, Twitter, Dropbox, Airbnb, Eventbrite, Facebook, Google, Microsoft (yeah, even Microsoft) and any other venture-backed startup that could pop up with $4M at any given moment? Trust me, the hunting grounds in *|COUNTRY|* have more animals, more trees to hide them, and less hunters. Your inability to attract that talent is likely the source of your talent troubles – Go make $1 Billion and the talent will come to you.

downloadI just wish that people were less risk-averse here – there’s just no startup culture.

Here’s the deal about a “risk-averse culture” – you don’t need your country’s culture to change in order to build a company. Other than the Silicon Valley, where freeway signs announce Cloud Conferences and job offers from tech startups, there is no place in the world where the culture isn’t risk-averse. In fact, societies and communities as a whole tend to favor pack mentality – just as Nietzche – so stop complaining that your former colleagues just don’t support you enough, or that the banks are out to get you. If one great tech company has come out of your country in the last 20 years, then you have no excuse. Go make $1 Billion dollars and I’m sure they’ll understand your risky lifestyle.

If there were only an accelerator in *|COUNTRY|* that actually helped startups grow, *|BAD STARTUP NAME|* would’ve been a huge success.”

Accelerators in the US were born out of two relationship problems :

1) There were so many startups and mentors that they had trouble finding each other and verifying their legitimacy.

2) Investors needed filters, and were willing to pay for it.

US Accelerators solve both of these problems.

I argue that very few places outside of the US have these same problems, and trying to apply a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist is a bad idea – Techstars only just now came to the UK, arguably the 52nd State.

Waiting for an accelerator to pop up in your ecosystem is like watering a pile of rocks and hoping a tree will sprout, or waiting for a train to come at a dockyard. Despite the fact that your startup looks and acts similar to startups in other areas of the world, the ecosystem doesn’t have the same dynamic, so accelerators don’t serve the same purpose – they are now more of an office space commodity than an investment fund, except perhaps Seedcamp.

What you’re looking for is to be put in touch with people who can help you grow – Mentors, Talent, Investors – and more often than not you can achieve this just by reaching out and grabbing it. There aren’t so many investors that you can’t just look at who has invested in other startups recently and shoot them an email/LinkedIn/phone call/smoke signal with your pitch deck. If you need mentors, go find them. Someone who succeeded in your sector, or someone whose career path you’ve followed, and ask them if they’ll submit to receiving an email once a month with an update, along with the occasional email asking for a very specific piece of help.

Wow, now you just got yourself a mentor and an investor, all without an accelerator. Now go make $1 Billion and become an investor and a mentor.