A week or so ago I wrote an article called Startup Isn’t a Lifestyle, which basically broke down into a gentle but firm suggestion that calling yourself an entrepreneur doesn’t make you an entrepreneur. Note that there’s no link to that article. That’s because I didn’t publish it.
And that’s because about five minutes after I finished it, I read the first of what seemed like an endless string of articles in the tech/startup press that, from high up on the highest mountain, declared that startups and entrepreneurs needed to stop all this community/social/party stuff and get their focus back on their work.
This pissed me off, but probably not for the reasons that you would expect.
Monday night was the eleventh in the monthly string of ExitEvent Startup Socials and, like every single one before it, it broke every expectation I had in terms of the amount of entrepreneurs and investors in attendance and the energy in the room.
I saw old friends, made new friends, and connected and introduced probably a dozen people who needed to know each other.
I also made introductions, by request from one person in the room to another person in the room, a dozen more times, including introducing Monica to Ben. There were enough people there (I stopped counting at 200) that they couldn’t spot each other.
I listened to and answered to the best of my ability questions about certain details related to fundraising and hiring developers.
I gave feedback on one startup’s advisement about a complete overhaul of their product (their advisers were right, I believe).
I discussed, rather quickly too, the benefits of advertising on ExitEvent (otherwise know as “our product”), and sold an ad (“a product”) on the spot.
I had a longer but still very pleasant discussion with someone who didn’t get the whole entrepreneurs verification and RSVP thing we do and why it was necessary to the viability of the Social.
I gave more than one Airplane!-style win-one-for-the-Zipper speech.
This is just a sampling, and this is just me. I’m one entrepreneur out of over 200. Sure, not everyone was as productive as me that night, but I can assure you I’m not the most important, the most social, the most connected, or the most recognizable person in that room, far from it.
In June, Aaron Houghton from BoostSuite ran an impromptu alpha user feedback session in a quieter corner. So there you go.
And I did this all with a beer in my hand a smile on my face. I also did completely unproductive and useless things like shake hands with people, ask about husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, kids, dogs, and vacations, and tell a few jokes, mostly on-color.
I had an amazing time, and this was almost directly due to the fact that over the several weeks leading up to this Social, I’ve been putting in consistent 16-hour days developing artificial intelligence and staring at big data for Automated Insights. I needed that beer (those beers) more than I’ve needed beer since, well, since the last Social in June.
And that is the root cause of what burns me about this event-bubble/get-back-to-work/Johnny-Serious attitude that seems to be creeping into the mainstream.
Don’t tell me when and when not to party.
Look. I know there are a lot of startup events and startup support groups and startup community building programs and startup rah-rah out there, which is why I try to define ExitEvent as exactly none of that even though it has a little of all of that.
But I’ve also known and still know several entrepreneurs who just code their asses off and have a beautiful product that absolutely no one knows about and, more likely and most directly due to the introverted nature of its evolution, no one wants.
I’m not a huge fan of the fact that the assumption is that if an entrepreneur is attending an event, whether it be the Social, a meetup, or frankly anything else, that it’s automatically this downtime, unproductive, timesuck.
I also don’t like is the assumption that first time entrepreneurs or early stagers or even late stagers don’t have the sense or the commitment to build the product correctly and quickly and still find the time to take meetings, get advice, and even engage in the sin of blowing off steam for a few hours once a week.
Poo-poohing all entrepreneurs and all startup events for their, I don’t know, lack of not knowing to stay in a dark, smelly room and suffer for their art, isn’t going to create great entrepreneurs out of mediocre or half-ass entrepreneurs. It’s actually going to fail more potentially great startups than it saves.
Yes. There are entrepreneurs walking around every startup community who are just going from event to event with an idea and a great smile. These are the entrepreneurs who are entrepreneurs because they call themselves entrepreneurs. These are the folks I attempted the original article for. I get that. But lumping all non-coding related activity into time-wasting on the premise that these people exist isn’t going to make them go away.
I’m not naming names and I don’t plan to. I’m just telling you this. I know the difference between a viable game-changing startup like Automated Insights and an ExitEvent Social. And I’ll bet that 99% of the entrepreneurs who show up to said Social know the difference too.
But I also know that the reasons I got into startups in the first place are:
1) I’m reasonably sure I can create my own future
2) I’m not looking for a corporate road-map to success
3) I want joy in what I do
Startup has no work/life balance. There is no discounted gym membership, monthly teambuilding retreat, or softball league. It’s a grind, and if an entrepreneur isn’t working the grind, they will fail, regardless of how many opportunities are out there to help them find that balance. But I also believe that if all that entrepreneur does is grind, they’re likely to fail too, just in a different way.