A reality check for startup myths
A Startup is no Skydive [Startup Lessons]
This article is part of a series on Startup Lessons based on my experiences.
At first glance, attempting a startup seem like going skydiving. They both involve risk. Take guts. Require overcoming fear. Leaving a comfort zone. Are full of glory and inspiring when they work. In some circles, you may get bragging rights.
But look a bit deeper, and you’ll find that they’re actually total opposites. I’ve tried both. No, I don’t have wild success in startups. No unicorn. Or fame. I’ve co-founded one that achieved some funding. Same on the skydiving side: done it once, nothing spectacular. Yet, I have experienced both, enough to know they are incomparable.
Paying to jump out of a plane with a parachute for fun is a leisure activity. Whoever describes a startup as a leisure activity will have a hard time getting funding.
The initial jump in skydiving is over quickly. Once you’re falling, there’s only one way: down. In founding a startup, the initial jump is also jarring, but practically, reversible. You can go back to your previous career trajectory. In fact, thinking about the opportunity cost of lost wages while attempting to found a startup may be a distraction for some founders.
The first time you attempt a startup, you are fundamentally alone. True, you may have co-founders, teammates, support of family and friends, a community of likeminded people, and ideally a mentor. But you alone are responsible for making the tough calls. Compare that to the experience of a novice skydiver, you literally have an experienced instructor attached to your back. The one with experience knows when and how to activate the parachute.
The probability of a successful landing in skydiving is astronomically high. Otherwise you wouldn’t do it. It’s much higher than any honest founder would use to describe her/his probability at success (depending on how they measure it). And founders go for it anyway, knowing the chances are against them succeeding.
Skydiving is a passive journey back down to earth. Startup is an exhausting journey up to Mount Olympus.
And as for the unknown- on a clear day skydiving you can see where you’re going to fall. In startups, there’s no clarity about the outcome, or how you’ll fare, or where you’ll end up. You may ‘crash’ and come out broke. Or you may ‘make it’ and never come down.
Skydiving is over fast. Startups can stretch out for years or, if successful, your whole life.
So if your motivation to found a startup is to feel a rush, get bragging rights, or leave your comfort zone, then don’t quit your day job- go jump out of a plane.
Thank you for reading.