Best of Startup Day: Angel investor Dave McClure — don’t do a startup you idiot!


Editor’s Note: We’ve got a fantastic lineup of speakers on tap for GeekWire’s Startup Day, taking place Saturday, Sept. 22nd at Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue. Among the entrepreneurs on the agenda are Box CEO Aaron Levie; Zulily CEO Darrell Cavens; and many others. It’s going to be an informative and high-energy day for those in the midst of building their startups (or those unsure about taking the plunge).

As Startup Day approaches, we’re highlighting some of our favorite talks from past events.  This edition is on angel investor Dave McClure’s expletive-laced talk at Startup Day 2010 about Why Not To Do a Startup.

“For the most part, people start startups for the wrong reasons,” he says. “Particularly right now everyone and their mother wants to do a startup.  They think it’s cool.  They think they’ll make a lot of money.  They can’t work for anyone else so they want to be an entrepreneur.  They think that they’re going to have all this freedom and privilege.  NONE OF THOSE ARE GOOD REASONS.”

1. What are good reasons to start a startup: “Something has been pissing you off FOREVER.  Something has just been driving you crazy and you can’t stand it.  When I go sit down to eat at a restaurant, for literally 15-20 years, I can’t get the person’s attention.  I need to get the bill, there’s something wrong with my food, I want to get something else, and I cannot get the god damn waiter’s attention.  It drives me insane!  It pisses me off!  I’ve been thinking I should build something or do something for literally 15-20 years.  About six months ago I met this entrepreneur who was building this table top device that can do ordering, and you can get the person’s attention.  Fuck, great idea, I’ve been waiting 20 years for this!

If something pisses you off enough that you want to get up and solve that problem, that is a good reason to be an entrepreneur.  Most technology founders think: I’ve got this great new technology solution, I’m going to go do a startup.’  Wrong idea.  You want to be solving a problem, a problem that you are passionate about.  Hopefully a problem that someone other than just your mom has.”

Planning to make the startup plunge, or already in the deep end? Don’t miss Startup Day 2012 — Saturday Sept. 22 in Bellevue, as Box CEO Aaron Levie and other startup vets help you find your roadmap to success. Details and tickets here. Early bird rates end Aug. 22.

2. Why not to do a startup: ”If you’ve got a great big job and you’ve been there for a while, it’s going to suck to do a startup.  In most cases, unless you have a lot of money laying around, you’re going to have to cut back on a lot of expenses.  You’re going to have to work harder.

How many of you have kids?  Do you love your kids?  Do you like to read to them?  I can tell you right now that I see my kids on weekends and mornings and it sucks.  It really blows.  I have a three-year-old little girl and a five-year-old little boy.  Do not do a startup if you have kids under seven and you want to have a good relationship with them.  It’s a fucked up story, I’m sorry.

How many of you are married or have a steady relationship?  Do you care about that relationship more than your startup?  If you do, you shouldn’t do a startup.  You think I’m fucking with you.  You think I’m making a joke, I’m not making a joke. You will spend way more time with your startup and your co-founders than you will with your spouse or your partner.  If you are failing in your startup, do you think that amount of stress that is created will not have an impact on your social life?  It will fuck up your social life.  Many divorces, break ups, other things happen as a result of doing a startup.  It’s not sexy and it’s not cool.”

3. Business plans are a waste of time: “How many of you have over 20 page business plans?  That is a complete fucking waste of time.  You’re over-engineering for an outcome that is not likely to happen.  Business plans are a waste of time especially for consumer Internet businesses or for small Internet services businesses. What you need is a hypothesis of the customer use case, maybe some visuals, and you want to do some research into the potential monetization and outcome of a successful transaction or successful subscription that lasts 12 months.  You want to understand if you can get that customer and understand if you can get to break-even sometime in the next two years.  You want a mockup of the user experience, you want a set of events that you think are measurable based on conversion and you want some understanding of customer acquisition costs and customer revenue monetization.  That’s what you need.  You don’t need a fucking business plan, it’s a waste of god damn time.  If you pitch me and you have a business plan I will not listen to you”

Look for more talks from the Startup Day archives in the coming weeks, and make sure to join us Sept. 22 for Startup Day 2012. Early-bird rates expire Wednesday, so make sure to get your tickets today!

  • http://twitter.com/AcorgInc Acorg Inc

    How can I pitch to you then??

    I have been telling people here in London, Ontario that I don’t need a business plan but they insist I do. I have now created one but feel it was a total waste of time.

    I think everyone will come around to this idea but a lot of old school money still wants to see a “plan”.

    • Henry

      A plan never proves accurate in the end – yes, but doing one does tease out issues you hadn’t thought of before you put ‘pen to paper’ that’s the benefit of a plan, it crystallises much of your inside thoughts! of which a potential investor needs to know!

  • http://www.facebook.com/MatthewTBishop Matt Bishop

    Vimeo has an error.

  • http://twitter.com/noelbaron Noel Baron

    <3 Dave.

  • http://www.getsoundline.com/ Michael Cramer

    I guess I’m one of the crazy ones. And woot to my wife that stays with me even though she knows she’s number 3. He’s right, if your not ready to put your business first, you will fail. When your customers need you, you have to make that choice and if you pick your wife over your customers, say goodbye to your customers.

  • Mirfagah Iqbal

    Dave.. i agree!