My house is always full of guests, but only a few have noticed that I have a new project. Stella and Al figured out I was up to something, but during a recent stay managed to wrangle just a scattered few sentences on the subject. Sara clocked that I was taking phone calls (aberrant behavior – I literally never use the phone except in my business life) and enquired; compelled to tell the truth I admitted I was hiring, you know, employees. Engineers, to be specific.
Why? Because I started a new tech company last year, and most of my thoughts and actions have been caught up with the whole thing, which I would never talk about at the dinner table or in mixed social groups. I discuss it with colleagues, attorneys, accountants, and customers; in other words, the people who are involved with the project. But I don’t see the point of chatting about my job with anyone else. I am aware (from observation) that other startup founders talk about their companies endlessly, to the peril of all social gatherings. Not me, not ever.
All the companies I’ve started have been successful by objective standards but that doesn’t mean I am inclined to brag. Hubris is both dangerous and idiotic. It is a simple fact that the majority of startups fail, which isn’t surprising. Does the world need another social media company? Digital marketing and real estate innovations? Companies claiming to be tech because they sell stuff online? Blockchain? And don’t forget scooters!
What I would ask is: are any of these ideas… necessary? Maybe. I don’t know, but I’m also not very interested. Yes, people sometimes make a lot of money working in startups, but it is more common to lose both money and time. I hate wasting money, and I’ve been living on borrowed time since 1983.
As a general rule I think the startup scene is bloated with bad ideas and irrational investments. I also believe that the amount of VC floating around is distorting traditional economic indicators. High consumer debt, cuts to infrastructure investment, and the fragility of the international supply chain are additional troubling factors. We’re in another bubble, if we’re lucky, but it is far more likely we’re riding unicorns toward economic armageddon.
This analysis didn’t deter me from starting a company, but it did make me cautious about which sector to operate in. I thought about it for a good long time before assembling a team of super smart people, who are working on products to address fundamental software security issues. We had customers before we had a prototype.
This is a very old-fashioned way to run a tech company, and the opposite of current received wisdom. If anyone corners me and asks for my advice, this is what I say: trouble is coming, and we all need to be prepared.