Most startup theory is ex-post, therefore bs
People love to academize things. They love inductive reasoning. Setting up theories based on a small number of empirical observations. Generalizing them, and packaging them neatly in small little bites of advice.
This doesn’t only happen in the startup domain. It happens in the business world at-large. I should know, I went to business school and learned by heart case studies how General Electric did this, or how Kodak fucked up that. In the end, it’s all bull crap. There are other categories too. For example relationship advice. Career advice. What have you.
Let me focus on startups though, that’s where I feel at home the most.
When you run a startup, a lot of people will give you advice. A lot lot. Most people suck at giving advice, so they just give you an example. Ex-post advice. An empirical case study.
They say shit like “why don’t you do the Tesla strategy, start with a small but premium market, and then move to a lower but bigger market”. Or “Airbnb growth hacked Craigslist to link to their own website. And did you know that the founders lived with their users. You should do that, too!”"
Growth hacking, ugh.
Here’s my (unsolicited advice): Think for yourself. Do you think Musk copied that strategy from the business school he never went to? Do you think Brian Chesky of Airbnb heard that strategy from a friend? Hell, do you even think that freeriding off of Craigslist was their reason for success?
The most satisfying thing about being an entrepreneur is that you can do what you think makes sense. That doesn’t mean don’t get advice. But get advice from people who know you, who you know, and most importantly, learn how to apply that advice. And that last point is probably one of the hardest things to get right as a founder.
Do something new, something wild. Do you want to raise VC funding? Good, learn the ins and outs, and do it. Don’t want to do it? So don’t! Want to finance your startup by working part-time at a local pub? Perfect!
Great, now I’m starting to sound like Shia LaBeouf.
My point is - if it doesn’t work out, at least it didn’t work out on the terms you set.
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