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The dynamics of startup success

21 December, 2012

How many of you have lost weight by just reading? I’m assuming the answer is nil. You have a much better chance of losing weight by reading a book about weight loss and then actually implementing some of the techniques. Why am I asking such a dumb question?

I’ve come to the conclusion that reading about entrepreneurs, startup stories, funding and other related topics is just a waste of time. It gives an entrepreneur a false sense of “working” because they feel the next article in their RSS feed will provide them the secret sauce to startup success. It’s the equivalent of reading about other people’s weight loss stories and thinking that by doing exactly the same thing you will achieve the same results.

I think we can all agree that logic is flawed, yet many entrepreneurs follow the same logic day in and day out. Everyone is different when it comes to weight loss and finding the path to startup success is no different.

I’m guilty of falling into this trap as well, why do I do it? Because when I meet with friends and we discuss the latest blog post from Paul Graham it gives us a sense of being educated and smart. In reality we are just avoiding the real issues -– company growth, team dynamics, revenue and profit margins of our own startups. In fact, the latest blog post from Paul Graham weighed in at over 4,000+ words about startups and growth. Many folks on Twitter are saying it’s one of Paul’s best essays. Give me a break. We tend to complicate things and then we need a 4,000+ word essay to tell us user growth is crucial for startups!

Over the past couple of months I’ve been reading the book ‘Founders at Work’ which was ironically written by Paul Graham’s wife Jessica Livingston. I was hoping to glean some insight from the stories of the founders and it dawned on me that all of the founders never read other peoples stories and instead just went out there and created something.

Many of the stories talked about the challenges they faced and how they overcame them and pushed forward. From that perspective it is great to hear success stories, but if you think you can read it, absorb it and re-create exactly what someone else has done, you are kidding. I’m guessing you are just hoping for something to happen as opposed to making things happen.

You routinely hear the phrase book smart vs. street smart. I think the phrase is so apt for this situation where people read so much and sound intelligent during conversations, which make them book smart.

But, the street smart person will try 100s of things till he/she finds something that works. I’m not saying book smart is a bad thing. In fact many entrepreneurs have some fairly impressive degrees and read a lot.

However, they also know when it is time to execute. They do not sit on the fence and read about other people’s success stories then.

Will I completely tune out? No. From time to time we eat junk food and I’m sure the same thing will happen with reading about startup stories. It’s all about managing your time and not letting other people’s stories consume you.

(Manish Jain is a co-founder at MProfit Software, a financial software company based in the Nariman Point area of Mumbai.)

To become a guest contributor with VCCircle, write to shrija@vccircle.com.


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3 Comments
Andrew . 5 years ago

Couldn’t agree more with ‘book smarts vs street smarts’. Book smarts may get you a cushy job but street smarts breaches new frontiers.

Venu . 5 years ago

There are multiple ways to learn and if it happens to be only through reading by oneself then I am sure the lifespans will not be sufficient. There are many things that become clear only after experimenting but how many trials can you afford, can you take a perspective with help from experiences of others to be shrewd in cutting down the decision tree options, or will it mean you will risk an opportunity owing to the bias due to a gained/shared perspective thus making you risk averse or even worse by ignoring a black swan in the making.

In the end an Entrepreneurs’ success will be based on how did he optimize, not necessarily always his own but the stakeholders (incl. customers, employees, sometimes suppliers also, investors) time, cost, quality, value/returns and to that end it is not a single person’s journey here but an entire teams’ that believed in something and so the inputs need not be always gathered by one person but by the entire team on a delegated basis and the can be from reading/experimenting, which then finally gets assembled by the men in charge for better shape and application.

Now coming to showing off the erudition skills can be magnanimously left for scholars with academic interests.

Puru Gupta . 5 years ago

Nice perspective – at least your note makes me less guilty about not reading the many start-up books that I have put on display at my place! Although it’s a great perspective, I would refrain from getting completely consumed by your thought process. 🙂

The dynamics of startup success

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