Many new entrepreneurs see themselves are “inventors” or “social justice warriors” rather business guys. Suits? Gross. Cufflinks? What are those? Finance? Boring! Money? Evil!
And you can’t blame them. Our culture has romanticized entrepreneurship as a “noble cause” where someone finds a solution to a problem facing humankind and is immediately rewarded for it with the world’s riches and a Nobel Peace Prize. I see these people all the time around the streets of Cambridge, MA: conflating their business idea contributions to society, social justice, and a patronizing “ I’m-better-than-you-attitude.” Ask them about the business fundamentals of their venture –numbers, margins, cash flow - and they look at you like you’ve just insulted their childhood pet. How dare you ask me about numbers?
Unfortunately, history tells otherwise. An invention alone means nothing. In America today – the modus operandi of the “old economy” still reigns supreme. Successful founders are those who are able to successfully raise funds, have the financial know-how of their industry, and are able to negotiate their way into the back room politics required to finance their company’s growth. In other words, you’d rather have an average product and phenomenal business execution than a phenomenal product and an average plan of business execution.
Ideally, you’d have both.
A study complied by CB Insights compiling post-mortems of 101 startups across all industries, led to the following three reasons for startup failure:
Here’s the kicker: Successful startups are a business. Running a business requires financial acumen, negotiation skills, the grit to see something through, and finding ways to opening doors that are often closed for average people.
By being a good business man or woman, you’ll be able to better provide for your customers: giving them the best products and lowest cost, shipping your products faster so they can get it quicker, and allowing you to retain more earnings so you can hire, expand, and truly serve more people in your community and beyond. This is the part that this millennial generation doesn’t want to embrace - their social justice warrior mentality of defying everything that reeks of capitalism, riches, and the 1% fuels a generation of businesses that ironically don’t get anything done and actually don’t impact anyone.
Sure thing, you can “talk” about your business idea and your product and how it’s going to save humankind, but that’s not going to get you any closer to actually doing that. You must get sh*t done. Business is war, and the way to succeed is to outwit your competition and force your way to make your business as financially sound as possible so you can actually do the things you wanted to do – in scale. Otherwise – you’re just like those politicians you say you despite –“all talk no action.”
So, eye for the prize- if you’re really keen on saving the world – become one of the 122 startups that reach $100M in revenue in America each year, don’t hate on them. If you want to change the system, win. Victors get to re-write history; no one gives a shit about losers.