how to create a start-up, for real this time

Toronto, 2014.11.03

Today I read an article on start-ups by Paul Graham - perhaps the most important I've ever read. He wrote two things that really caught my attention:

...starting a startup is where gaming the system stops working. Gaming the system may continue to work if you go to work for a big company. Depending on how broken the company is, you can succeed by sucking up to the right people, giving the impression of productivity, and so on. But that doesn't work with startups. There is no boss to trick, only users, and all users care about is whether your product does what they want. Startups are as impersonal as physics. You have to make something people want, and you prosper only to the extent you do.

I think it's exciting that gaming the system stops working when you start a startup. It's exciting that there even exist parts of the world where you win by doing good work. Imagine how depressing the world would be if it were all like school and big companies, where you either have to spend a lot of time on bullshit things or lose to people who do.

And later:

Ok, so how do you turn your mind into the type that startup ideas form in unconsciously? (1) Learn a lot about things that matter, then (2) work on problems that interest you (3) with people you like and respect. The third part, incidentally, is how you get cofounders at the same time as the idea.

I have worked for several start-ups over the years, and had my hand in a couple myself. In every case, one of the three points above was missing. In my most recent start-up, I sheepishly admit that it was #1 on two fronts: my Japanese language skills (I was doing this in that country) and my knowledge of the market I was trying to develop. Next time, I'll use this short list as my acid test.

Three reasons to be thankful:

  1. My new bike proved itself in some pretty crappy weather on roads strewn with rotting leaves.
  2. The Boy seems mostly improved from a bug that's dragged him through days of fever.
  3. Mari and I have had our eighth anniversary. We're not only past the years when most marriages dissolve (see below), but I believe we're doing damn well all things considered.
Year of marriage ending in divorce

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