Startup’s “EGOsystem”

Been to a startup event or gathering lately ? Did you notice that there seems to always be a “rah-rah” feel,  a dash of bragging, lots of fun, “rockstars” and that what I call “the-everything-is-awesome” atmosphere at these startup events ? It gives the impression that everyone is doing great, growing and working on their “next big thing”.

Startups have recently become the most “in” thing and when mainstream media starts writing about the successes it somehow creates a “magical” aura. Now lots more people want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, further “sensationalizing” the role of a startup founder as the next coolest thing to be. And attracting  “founders” who like the idea of being a founder of a startup more than wanting to build a business or solve a real problem.

Is this really what startups are about ?  If 9 out of 10 startups fail, then all this good news can’t possibly be real !

Why we don’t hear or see a startup that is struggling, troubled or running out of cash. Or have startup founders mastered the art of “hustling” and have become experts at “fake it till you make it” that they have even managed to fool themselves and distance themselves from reality ?

More often than not, a startup is “fighting fires” and working against a ticking clock. They’re bleeding cash, has little or inconsistent revenue, working on getting more customers/users and the founders are often stressed and busy trying to raise funds etc. Then why or how could they be looking so “awesome” everytime we see them at events or in the press ?

I’ve come across founders who resort to “white-lies” and exaggerate on their numbers and growth rates in order to look more attractive to investors, potential employees, media and even customers. Granted we have all done this sometime in our life when “selling”, to make ourselves look bigger or better than we really are, saying things like we’re doing 7,000 orders, we add 1,000 users each day, our revenue is up by 300% … etc etc.

Don’t forget that whatever numbers you skillfully came up with, it should also be somehow feasible since people will remember those numbers and they might come back to haunt you. And you’ll need to keep pushing them higher to make your growth story consistent which could lead you into a trap that you can’t get out of. Is this “hustling”or is this blatant lying ? Some would even tell you that they are growing super fast and after some weeks you read that they have shut down.

Today’s startup community recognizes a “hustler” as a go-getter and someone who finds clever ways to get things done but the word “hustler” is not a new one and is also defined as a person who employs fraudulent or unscrupulous methods to obtain money or a swindler.

Don’t let those exaggerations become food for your own ego or fuel for your fantasies or you’ll end up in a self-feeding state of delusion. Times are changing and people know what questions to ask, and are not afraid to aggressively probe to get the answers they seek and your “lies” will get exposed.

Running a startup is unpredictable already on its own as we’re never sure what’s going to happen the next day. So its time to wake up to reality and drop the facade, and you’ll be surprise how being truthful could actually gain you a lot more credits and help as well.

Of course you could just ignore all this and carry on as you have and have as much fun at the next event, cause statistically speaking you are most likely going to fail anyway.

An abridged version in Thai courtesy of the CEO Blogger can be read here.

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