Startup Reality in Los Angeles

This is a bit of a sentimental journal entry.

I had a talk with a Startup CEO friend of mine today. Honestly, it scared me a bit.

He talked about Kickstarter campaigns, and how the only people who’ve been successes on that platform were Product Managers at Microsoft or Head Engineers at Google or Top Researcher at some University who are privately wealthy anyway. How if you actually talk to the people who’ve done it, they tell you they’d never do it again, because it costs so much time and money to fulfill your pledge promises that you’re left enough funding to buy yourself a present, but nothing to make progress with. How the ballsy mentor advice I’d heard at Founder’s Institute on Monday was empty speculation from someone with no experience doing it.

He talked about how the only companies getting into Y Combinator and being backed by the experienced Mentors and Investors are big names who left high-paying jobs to start their own companies.

About how the companies backed by the LA mentors that I admire had recently failed. How so many of these Known Name, professional mentors all over the city are excellent post-growth CEOs who’ve never founded a company in their lives, and don’t know that all the advice they’re giving you is wrong because they’ve never done it, and they’ve never backed a company who’s done it and succeeded. That they’re just feeding you a path to rags, and getting paid for all their opinions. I started thinking, even if I connect with these mentors, maybe that won’t help me succeed.

I’m growing into this startup culture of enthusiasm and false wisdom, that my friend’s valid observations showed is just a myth.

But maybe he was too wise. Maybe to succeed in this environment, you need to be a little bit naive. Maybe to succeed here you need to believe that you can succeed, and then you have so much stupid enthusiasm that you actually do.

He made me feel like you’re only gonna succeed if your team is full of Head Engineers at Yahoo, and you’re an expert in something with a huge degree and a large wallet. Like there is no room in the world for young people like me who just want to make something good and change the world.

But those stories aren’t all there is. I have a few friends who ARE making good products, and who are getting funded without star power. You can be just a developer. You CAN be someone who learned how to code. And someone who makes good design. And someone who just has great ideas and cares about their customers so damn much. And someone who can put those together into a good product and find people who want it. As long as you can create value and give that to other people, you’re an entrepreneur. And you’re a damn good one.

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