How insane do you have to be to start a new company?
According to the Small Business Adminstration, “two-thirds of new employer establishments survive at least two years, and 44 percent survive at least four years.”
That means your chances of making it to year four are a lot less than fifty percent.
In the best of times, startups are risky, but you definitely have to be batshit, cover-the-walls-with-pillows, Napoleon-hat crazy to start a company in what is shaping up to be the worse economy since the invention of radio. Right?
(this and other stylish straight jackets available from Monkey Dungeon)
Wrong. There comes a time to wallow in irrational, militant optimism.
To start a company is to double down on a dream — it’s a chance to contribute value to the world, to build a unique tribe of like-minded weirdos and at the end of the day, maybe change some lives and make a few bucks. Every great company was once just a figment of someone’s imagination, a collection of ideas that usually defied common sense.
Take Apple Computer, for example. An unconventional genius and a brilliant computer engineer sell a VW van and an HP calculator and use the money to build hand-soldered computer boards for $666.66, founding their company on April Fools Day, 1976. Within a few short years, Apple is critical to the founding of the PC industry, popularizes a new paradigm of computer use, and becomes a pioneering force in the way all of us not only use computers, but also how we live our lives. But it started with two guys in a garage with a dream.
(image grabbed from the very awesome Retro Thing page)
Look at the history of just about any industry from steam engines to videogames and you’ll see the same story playing itself out over and over as founders with vision defy the common wisdom of the day. The roll call of companies founded by people who marched to a different drummer is immense: Google, Microsoft and Pixar. Honda, Walmart, Disney and Facebook … the list goes on and on.
Our current company is the third startup that I have been privileged to be part of. The first, Malibu Comics, started out with a few guys in a double-wide trailer and grew to over 100 people over ten years. We published hundreds of comic books, including Men In Black (the basis for the movie series!) and were eventually acquired by Marvel Entertainment. The second, videogame developer High Moon Studios, grew to over 150 developers and was acquired most recently by Activision-Blizzard.
In both cases, there were plenty of white-knuckle moments when all seemed lost. And that’s the secret of a startup: these moments are a non-optional part of the deal and if you’re not careful, you can become a cringing vermin, drunk on fear. That’s where blind, unreasoning, militant optimism comes in. To bring a startup to life, you gotta be “In It To Win It” despite any and all evidence to the contrary.
Our new venture has a simple and worthy mission: make people happy five minutes at a time and let them share what they’ve made with others. We have a great team, an office over a bar (for extra militant optimism) and a fantastic opportunity to connect with a worldwide audience numbering in the millions.
In It To Win It!
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