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

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

13 Responses

  1. Avatar
  2. Avatar
    Rickgoz

    and become “an(d)” investor and a mentor.

    Nice article 😉

  3. Avatar
    Jeremy

    “Go make $1 Billion and the talent will come to you….”
    That’s the only part where I do not agree.
    First for causality reason : you’ll never reach $1billion on your own 🙂
    Second : 1 billion sales is already a big company. It will definitvely give you some publicity to Attract new talent and is a key to success… but retaining existing talent is to me even more crucial.. and most of the time big corporation fail miserably at it :http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericjackson/2011/12/14/top-ten-reasons-why-large-companies-fail-to-keep-their-best-talent/
    That being said, I could not agree more with the key message of your part on acquiring new talent : do not hesitate to go the extra miles to get them

  4. Avatar
    davidbruant

    I find “Go make $1 Billion” a bit harsh. There is not enough room for thousands and thousands of companies making a billion. I don’t think all markets are suitable to make billions anyway.

    In any case, I agree with the overall point. Especially the “talent” one. Very few people seem to realize how important it is to hire well and that hiring is something worth spending a LOT of time on.

  5. Avatar
    Ganael

    all your punchlines work with one “million” except of one “billion” … 😉

  6. Avatar
    Bruce Fernie

    Great article… BUT, excuses are great and I hope that the ones who make them continue to, they will fall to the side. The start-up field is for ‘doers’ not ‘wishers’. While barely out of my teens my first start-up in the late 70’s was when the prime rate in the US was way over 20%… it worked, you make it work.

    Entrepreneurship isn’t for lightweights… it’s hard, if you want easy get a job.

    I just turned 60 and am doing my 7th start-up… not easy but it will happen, I will make my investors a great return, I will make some for myself, will employ many and pay taxes… win, win, win.

    ‘Don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out to it’

  7. Avatar
    Alain

    Liam
    You mention SeedCamp as an accelerator in France…! Just remember you’re permanently invited at the Founder Institute, http://www.fi.co which is not an other office facility, but a real accelerator in Paris with a structured cursus… and a set of very good mentors who can help French Startup to grow… The Founder Institute has been runing in Paris for more than 3 years now…

  8. Avatar
    Sacha Robehmed (@akasacha)

    The 52nd state? Ouch. On behalf of all Brits, I object to that statement Mr. Boogar!

  9. Avatar
    Ben

    I agree with the substance of this article but I find it too naïve.

    “In France, plenty of companies did series A and Seed Capital outside of France”. True, VCs are global but you still need your investors to be near you to help your company grow. Investors are not only investors, they are also advisors. So the more you have VCs located close to you the more you will be able to find the investors that suit your start up even if you operate on a global market. Why do you think Facebook went from NYC to California ? To get closer to VCs (Accel Partner not to mention it) and tech companies. Why do you think Zendesk’s founders settled down in the US rather than in Denmark ? The reality is that the amount of investment money available (as well as the market) has an impact. You tend to go where the money is and the money wants to stay close to you.
    Plus, all start-ups are not necessarily meant to be global from the start. In that case how would you pitch an American VC if your start up solves a local/national pain ?

    “Governments aren’t designed to help companies grow”. Governments are not “designed” for a specific purpose. A government runs a country: it chooses the political direction to take for the good of the country and its people. This direction has an impact on the economy, thus on companies. Part of its “Job” (if I may call it a “job”) is to help company grow. I am sure you know the importance of “public” subsidies or loans for start-ups in France (like BPI France, the French public investment bank -previously known as Oseo, CDC Entreprise and FSI-, all the regional/town subsidies or the CIR – to invest in R&D and pay less tax). I can also mention all the political decisions, whether they are European or French, that create new markets and opportunities through new regulations, taxes…Yes, you should not count on “gouvernment’s” help but political decisions can help or harm, a lot. And taking the example of Apple bothered by the American government in the context of start-up is very naïve.

    “If there were only an accelerator in *|COUNTRY|* that actually helped startups grow, *|BAD STARTUP NAME|* would’ve been a huge success.” Whether you like it or not, having incubators and accelerators facilitates the creation and development of start-ups. I do not know many recent start-ups that were successful without being in an incubator at early stage.

    Your state of mind “Work it out for yourself, you have no excuses” is positive and I am not trying to get excuses for “want-repreneurs” who fail in creating their start-up and blame others (the market, the start-up eco-system, the attitude, the government…). My point is that being aware that some things do not only depend on you no matter how motivated you are can be positive too. Do not take fences as excuses, try (and I insist on the try aspect) to use it to become smarter, stronger and bigger. Allmyapps was recently ban from the Apple Store and there is little they can do about it now but they can still grow massively on Android. I could completely hear from them that Apple made them not grow as fast as they wanted…it may be an excuse but it’s a pretty good excuse since it’s true.

  10. Avatar
    Alison B.

    I’m a Brit living in Paris. I’m in the pre-start-up stage of setting up my business. I’m going back to the UK to actually register, start-up and run my business, because the bureaucracy and taxes in France make life incredibly difficult for a start-up. The spirit of the old woman knitting by the guillotine lives on in the fonctionnaires of the fifth republic. Sure, it’s not impossible to run a business in France, but it’s such a headache that if you have a choice to start-up in another, more business-friendly country, who in their right mind would choose to stay in France instead?

    • Avatar
      Jean-Marc Loingtier

      Alison, the paperwork/time to start a company in France is really the same (effort / time) than in the US so I’m not familiar about the UK but I’d bet it is of the same order. As to taxes, if you intend to bring forth real innovation it should not be a problem at all (even w/o strong innovation they is plenty of support). If you have the choice, why not consider a place where your future employees will have (among other things) top notch healthcare and … a much sunnier environment 🙂

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