You’ve been working hard, pulling all nighters, and slaving away. You’ve been working on your venture for months, maybe longer. You have the drive, the skills, the brilliant concept, and you want to know why your start-up isn’t the next Google, Facebook, Dropbox, Twitter, LinkedIn, or YouTube yet.
Some companies that you think of as start-ups aren’t really start-ups (and never were). Twitter was incubated inside a larger parent company rather than started by an independent founder as a truely independent start-up without the resources and capabilities of a parent company. It was started as unit or project of Odeo, with all the resources and capabilities of Odeo and it’s employees. The resources of a parent help a venture start-up faster than would otherwise be possible. Twitter went from an idea in March 2006 to a publicly available website in less than 4 months, a feat that would likely not have been possible without a parent to incubate the venture. You might not have the ability to incubate your start-up inside a parent company, but if you do it’s worth considering. Part of that consideration is a cost/benefit analysis because it probably means giving the parent company a percentage of the start-up’s equity or some other financial compensation when the start-up eventually spins out on its own.
Some companies have founders who have previously launched a start-up or are very well known in the start-up community. The founders of LinkedIn had previously launched PayPal and Socialnet.com, giving them the experience and knowledge of how to navigate the start-up waters, including the shark-filled waters of VC financing. That knowledge and experience helps to take a venture from start-up to established company at a faster pace because the venture can avoid a lot of the pitfalls of in inexperienced founder. YouTube’s founders were also involved in the early stages of PayPal. If you haven’t previously started a venture, there’s no way to gain that experience without going through the process. Instead, you might consider adding someone to your team who has previous experience as a founder or executive in a start-up. In the very early stages you can bring that person on as a co-founder or as a member of your advisory board if you have one (later you advisory board will become your board of directors/trustees/governors). Later, an experienced start-up team member can be brought on as a non-founding member of the executive team.
Some companies are started while their founders are still in college. The secret to their instant success is that by the time you hear about these companies, they’re well on their way. While still start-ups, they’ve had time to incubate before you heard about them, making it seem like their success came faster than it really did. Google was created at Standford as research project. Facebook, Dell, Microsoft, and others were started at Harvard. Countless other ventures have been launched or at least started from college dorm rooms around the country and around the world. It’s less true today than it was when Google started, but by the time these ventures come out from under the umbrella of their university origins, they’re frequently well past the very early days of a start up’s timeline.
So you still want to know what the secret to instant success is?
The secret is, instant success doesn’t exist in the start-up world. It’s a long hard battle with lots of hard work and, often, some sacrifices. But here’s the good news: you CAN do it. If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve got more drive, determination, and heart than 99% of people. Be smart in your approach, your idea, and your team, but the more than anything, just go do it.