James Maskell

Inspiration for Startup Founders

26 January 2012

Running a startup can be tough. There will always be setbacks and times when you struggle to see how things are going to work out. I’ve had that recently - particularly in the very early days (and we’re still pre-launch) - but quotes from the following articles stuck in my mind and have helped to keep my motivated.

In a recently republished article, Seth Godin argues that you want to avoid looking back on missed opportunities. If you’re currently running a startup, you should want to avoid looking back and wishing you’d tried that little bit harder to make your startup work:

Here’s a question that you should clip out and tape to your bathroom mirror. It might save you some angst 15 years from now. The question is, What did you do back when interest rates were at their lowest in 50 years, crime was close to zero, great employees were looking for good jobs, computers made product development and marketing easier than ever, and there was almost no competition for good news about great ideas?

Many people will have to answer that question by saying, “I spent my time waiting, whining, worrying, and wishing.” Because that’s what seems to be going around these days. Fortunately, though, not everyone will have to confess to having made such a bad choice.

Paul Graham, co-founder of Y-Combinator, wrote an article entitled “How not to die”. He argues that founders should play a high-stakes game in which quitting leads to great embarrassment. He believes that the vast majority of startups would succeed if the founders kept at it:

I wish every startup we funded could appear in a Newsweek article describing them as the next generation of billionaires, because then none of them would be able to give up. The success rate would be 90%. I’m not kidding.

If you’re still having doubts, go and read those articles in full. Give it everything you’ve got, exhaust every idea. You’ll either be in the 90% who succeed (because they didn’t just give up) or be able to look back and know that you couldn’t have done anything more.