myguidie died yesterday. It was one of the few, sane ideas born a year ago during the 1st Startup Weekend Warsaw. Now it’s dead, and the only questions lingering are: what will @olasitarska do next, and what will everybody else do?
The startup scene in Warsaw, and Poland in general, is about to go through its first major trial. It started to heat up a year, maybe two years ago, with teams & ideas springing up everywhere. $1B acquisitions are a major inspiration and caffeine-laden parties like the Startup Weekend only add fuel to the fire. Now, when the toughest leftovers from the scene’s pioneers are failing, more and more people will start wondering whether to call the whole thing off and get a “real” job. I expect many will.
Here’s when the fun begins.
Business is tough. Really tough. You rise and you fall and your success depends on you being able to rise again. Fall seven times, get up eight, as the Japanese saying goes. And you can read all you want about failure being the new success and being oh, so great, such an educative experience. It still hurts like hell.
If you’re a struggling entrepreneur in need of a role model, here’s one for you: Rocky Balboa. “It’s not how hard you can hit. It’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward!”
Being in a startup means going to startup events to meet other startups and talk about startups. You may think of a “startup” as two guys working feverishly in a garage and suddenly dropping the bomb of a revolutionary new product onto the unsuspecting world. But what I saw is best summarized by a friend’s comment: “have you actually seen them ship anything?”
Business is about earning money, and you do that by delivering something of value to a customer. A “customer” is, by definition of a befriended accountant, “someone who paid.” Startups, in order to be legitimate businesses, also need someone to pay and they indeed find such people. They’re called venture capitalists.
Now, before you start sending me examples of startups actually delivering something and getting paid for it, I assure you I’ve seen them. I just wouldn’t call them startups. You won’t meet their founders on most startup events. You can meet them at work, when they’re not meeting their customers, or spend quality time with their cherished families. They’re just plain, old businesses.
The market for something to believe in is inifinite. I haven’t seen any better evidence of this being true, than during yesterday’s finale of Startup Weekend Warsaw. The team with the most daring, creative, inspiring idea for a project won by a landslide and swept away half of the numerous prizes. Business played second-string.
Some people were clearly dissatisfied with the outcome. Perhaps rightly so, perhaps not, but the truth is that an event of this type isn’t about building a business. You can’t build anything of quality and value in a 48-hour, caffeine-laden, sleep deprived, headlong running weekend. You are constantly distracted, overworked, haunted by the ever closer deadline, so as a result you cut corners – lots of them, just to be able to show something, anything in the end.
You can achieve two and only two things, really:
Running a business requires True Grit. Precisely the like of sheriffs in the old days of the Wild West. Staying atop an angry bull for 8 seconds will make the crowds cheer, but how about trying to catch that bull when he’s out in the wild? And what if the bull doesn’t care? “Being in business means fighting obstacles, one after another, EVERY SINGLE DAY” (via @ForPiter) is the smartest thing I heard over the last weekend and it’s something that all participants will eventually learn, if not from others’, then from their own experience.
I saw that kind of persistence in Justyna Goławska of TradycyjneJedzenie.pl and Przemek Białokozłowicz of CAREgiver who pursued their projects despite having little popularity among the crowds. I raise my glass (of coffee, for now) to the underdogs.
Who are you? How do you expect me to trust you? I know you do, because you’re trying to sell me something. You’re a startup; you put together a cool tool, working with your friends in a garage. You’re ready to hit the market. No-one knows you.
When you don’t have past achievements to speak for you, then all you have is transparency. Blog, tweet, share. Write about your ups and downs, explain your philosophy, speak of what you learn while working. It’s not likely to get you a seven-figure order, but it will build trust among your prospective customers and at some point some exec with a budget surplus will say “o hell, let’s check these guys out.”