People that have not built their own startup are inferior?

- September 23, 2014 3 MIN READ


We all belong to one, and even if you think that you don’t and you’re just a bit of a loner – well there’s a tribe for that too.

Quotes and Memes.

All tribes have them, and god we eat them up – we love them, we share them, we add filters to them and put them on Instagram.

And if someone expresses an opposing view to your tribe?


No seriously, death threats could quite possibly become a real situation you find yourself in, especially if you are part of the Pick Up Artist crowd or a neurotic One Direction fan.

But some tribes are harmless right?

The entrepreneur and startup crowd are all about living a better and more fulfilled life. We certainly aren’t as pompous as the health and fitness tribe that keeps telling me that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” – those people need to zip it and get a scoop of Salted Caramel Gelato from Messina’s. There is no way skinny feels as good as that does on your taste buds.

Upon reflection though, some of the gospel we are preaching as startup founders is a little bit condescending. In fact, I would go as far as saying that many people within our community, both newbies and stalwarts hop on board the contradiction train quite often when it comes to topics like education, employees and the whole ‘living the dream’ notion.

A classic is the whole “if you are not building your own dream, you are helping someone else build theirs” scenario – which has the connotations of an individual doing the latter should perhaps hold themselves in less esteem than the former. That doesn’t seem fair.

The statistics tell us that most startups fail. According to Bloomberg, 8 out of every 10 entrepreneurs that start a business will crash and burn within the first 18 months. So given that 80% of our tribe are technically serial failures, how can we look at those who are employed from a pedestal? They can afford to pay their rent my friends – they have a job.

Why is it that us entrepreneurs constantly diss the current education system? I understand that as an entrepreneur you don’t fit into the system. I really, really do – I’m there, I’m with you on this. But I sure as fuck am glad that I have employees that did – my team have studied degrees in journalism, law and marketing. This is because, like most of you, most days I have no idea what I am doing – I just have a big vision and need educated people to help me turn it into reality. Maybe we should respect theoretical education a little more … in fact, according to a recent article on MSN Money, a majority of successful startup founders actually have at least one formal degree, so there is obviously some value to it.

And the rhetoric about everyone should be a startup founder / business owner / entrepreneur needs to stop! Why on earth would an entrepreneur want everybody else to be an entrepreneur? It makes zero logical sense – who the hell would you employ? Other entrepreneurs? Who have the same goal as you – to build THEIR dream … damn, you’re going to have a really scalable venture on your hands there.

The rhetoric we should be pushing is ‘Everyone who WANTS to be an entrepreneur SHOULD be an entrepreneur’. Success is not defined by whether you are the owner of a business or not. In fact, most business owners go through regular periods of struggling. Nothing is ever consistent – employees who perform well have consistency for the most part, and many, especially those wanting to climb the corporate ladder, are rewarded financially with stock options and other bonuses – who is the smart one in this equation?

Thus far, it doesn’t seem like the entrepreneur is the one that is ‘living the dream’ – think about it, how can someone really build a quality business sitting on the beach, shirtless with the sun glaring onto their laptop screen, flies buzzing around and sand getting everywhere. Sounds like the perfect office space to get shit done, doesn’t it?

Most of the people that post these types of photos on social media fit into two categories. The first is, they have worked their arse off, and now have a solid business with employees and are on holidays, or taking a relaxation day to work on the business whilst their team hold the fort back in the office. The second is they are a freelancer or a contractor, not a startup. It is easier for a freelancer to “live the dream” than it is for a startup founder – they only have to worry about themselves.

I was charmed into the idea of “living the dream”. What I ended up living was somewhere between a nightmare and continual panic attack.

I obviously don’t regret it, well not now things are starting to gain momentum, but there was a good five month stint there where I was totally in Girl Interrupted territory.

Are entrepreneurs crazier than our fellow person? Yep. But are we more valuable to society? Nope. After all, 80% of our ‘valuable contributions’ that we try to make end up in the shitter.