The Sweet & Sour Startup

It was supposed to be so easy.

Just find a market ripe for disruption, build a product that makes people’s lives easier, and knock on the digital doors of everyone who might use it.

The simplicity of the startup dream is what makes it so bloody intoxicating.

And in that dream, everyone who tries your product has the same where-has-this-thing-been-all-my-life reaction.

They can’t believe its ingenuity. They use it every single day. In fact, they like it so much, they add it as a shortcut in their browser. And nobody adds anything as a shortcut anymore.

They tell their peers, who tell their peers. Twitter’s going mental for your idea. Sign-ups are going through the roof. You need the Intercom Premium Plan. This shit is B A N A N A S.

Monthly recurring revenue looks like a chart from the good bit in a Disney movie, where the dogs are making money paw over fist and the cats just stare through the window in envy.

It’s time to start planning your SXSW conference slides and firing the expression “game-changer” around like a drunk Somalian pirate clutching a copy of Wired magazine.

Just then, the sound of high fives and champagne corks popping jolts you back into reality.

And that reality robs you of your San Francisco pool party dreams and drops you in the middle of a cold, cold desert.

All you’ve got to show for your efforts is a lot of stubble and an MVP that feels not very M and even less V.

So you drop an amazing new feature! A slick new integration! And you can now sign in with Facebook!

A tumbleweed rolls by. You can’t even persuade that to sign up.

Keep moving on, cowboy. Your idea ain’t welcome round these parts.

No pressure, of course. Yes, your co-founders are counting on you. As are the people who’ve helped to finance your idea.

Of course, your remember that time you got a bit drunk and waxed lyrical to your mates about the massive potential of your product? Yeah, let’s hope that doesn’t come up again soon.

Oh, and if this all goes spectacularly wrong there’s also the small matter of looking after your wife, child, roof-over-your-head and all that stuff.

Those thoughts join you on your pillow every evening.


But the morning brings a new day. And new hope.

Five new sign-ups overnight. Positive feedback. Actual revenue!

And that’s the thrill of this crazy startup scene: The chase for paying customers that validate your ideas and opinions. The feedback that forces your product to be better. And the recommendations that make the long nights and feature fights worthwhile.

Easy it is not.

But difficult feels intoxicatingly worthwhile.


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