1. My How Quickly Things Change

    photo credit: Alyson Shontell/Business Insider

    Business Insider has a bit of sensationalist commentary on today’s TechStars NYC Demo Day in an article entitled “Skepticism Strikes at TechStars Demo Day But AdYapper is the Silver Lining.”

    Normally I just gloss over this kind of nonsense, but it actually smacked as something that had been bothering me since a recent trip to Mountain View for the MamaBear Conference in May.

    Last year at the same conference, the talks were full of people “crushing it.” Tons of vanity metrics gone wild, Series A announcements, big media partners and solid “traction” going around. The enthusiasm was enough to make a humble entrepreneur sink into his chair.

    This year, however, a different tune was playing. The talks consisted of cautionary tales of “raise money if you can, however you can, don’t worry about valuation.” Some started back-pedaling, talking about, gasp, real business metrics and, double-gasp, profitability, as things you should pay attention to from Day 1 or risk flaming out. There was an eery haze over the room in the wake of Jody Sherman’s terribly unfortunate passing, as a lot of the attendees were friends/investors/partners with him and Ecomom. Generally, though, it was just a bit gloomy.

    As I sat there, I tried to write down what this feeling was. It wasn’t overtly apparent, as there were still some VERY successful companies and founders talking about the great things they were doing. It was just a strange vibe, like people were all of a sudden out of love with the whole subscription commerce/box-of-something-a-month/let’s sell this stuff online and call it “emotional commerce” category. And I was a bit left out of that sentiment, because I’m pretty sure I was the only founder there whose company actually “makes” something with atoms, not just bits.

    The whole episode woke me up to how quickly the tune can change, especially in startup culture, and reminded me why it’s dangerous to get caught up in the fleeting success of something or someone new.

    I remember walking off of Microsoft’s campus last year Charlie Brown-style (cue music), thinking we were a million miles behind the pack. This year, I’m extremely proud of where we are and what we’ve accomplished. I guess it’s all about context.

    P.S. One of the companies presenting at Demo Day, Jukely, I’m completely obsessed with. Finally an app that understands how to make concerts—discovering and attending them—great! Not all doom and gloom!


  2. Not Everyone is “Crushing It” All the Time

    Betabeat has a surprisingly good article this morning about the realities of what people are deeming “startup depression.” Foster Kramer interviews YouAre.tv’s Josh Weinstein on his 25th birthday about how people deal with it and the stigma that surrounds it. I’ve mentioned before that I think there needs to be more realism in the “startup” conversation, that this “we’re going gangbusters all the time” facade is unhealthy both for those inside and outside the looking glass. For those inside, it creates an unrealistic bar that you measure yourself against 100% of the time. If you’re not winning at everything, if your numbers aren’t doubling every week, if VC’s aren’t banging down your door, if Google isn’t sending you truffles to coax an acquisition, then you’re not doing it right. Starting something requires ridiculous optimism and nearly insane positivity, but there are times when that runs out and the roller coaster hits a trough. And in those moments, you don’t want to pretend like everything’s peachy keen, you want support. And that’s what a community is for.

    For those outside looking in, this mentality distorts the game. People freaked out over how Bloomberg misrepresented the hell out of the Techstars incubator program in their reality show, but this does the same thing, and sometimes there are real consequences. It’s important to exhibit the difficulties of the slog, because that’s a MAJOR part of it. Like Edison said, genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. But it is getting better, stories like Sugru’s are cropping up more and more, and that’s a great thing. 

    I’d encourage you to read the BetaBeat interview, which was conducted in General Assembly (naturally). It’s still early for a discussion at Hacker News, but I’m sure one will brew up shortly.