Startup Expert, Paul Graham Has The Right Idea

Posted Oct 17, 2008

The last time I mentioned a Paul Graham essay was when he wrote about why he thought “Microsoft Is Dead.”  I disagreed with him big time on that essay, but his newest essay seems more aligned with my thoughts.  Graham later clarified what he meant by his essay.  His new essay focuses primarily why creating a startup in a bad company is a good idea.  As the founder of a startup myself, I agree with him on this point. 

“If we’ve learned one thing from funding so many startups, it’s that they succeed or fail based on the qualities of the founders,” stated Graham.  “The economy has some effect, certainly, but as a predictor of success it’s rounding error compared to the founders.”  Graham also pointed out that Microsoft and Apple started in the mid-70’s which was around the same time stagflation (inflation and unemployment increased to record levels) in the economy was taking place.  Both of these companies thrived because they had two smart founders each. 

Nothing good will come out of having one smart founder and one founder that has no role whether the economy is good or if it is bad. 

“If you’re the right sort of person, you’ll win even in a bad economy. And if you’re not, a good economy won’t save you,” added Graham. “Someone who thinks ‘I better not start a startup now, because the economy is so bad’ is making the same mistake as the people who thought during the Bubble ‘all I have to do is start a startup, and I’ll be rich.'”

Spot on, Paul.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone blames the economy on their lack of an ability to get a job or to do something else that is meaningful.  If you want something bad enough, go get it.  If you want to build your own Internet start-up, don’t pay someone else to build it for you.  Learn how to use Photoshop, code PHP, and learn how to set-up MySQL databases.  If you are bad at programming, there are many other options for making money on the Internet. 

If you sit there and blame the economy as justification for your lack of action, then you weren’t meant to move up in the world.  It’s the weekend, go out and do something meaningful while you have the free time.