The $0 Startup
February 22, 2021
The Short Story
The Long Story
Overall, it’s good pain. It never gets easier; you’ll just get better. You’ll learn so much about yourself, about the world, about humanity, about relationships, about creating beauty but also about destroying prototypes, relationships, beliefs. It’s beautiful. It’s hard. It’s rewarding. I congratulate you dearly on your plan.
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Prelude: Start With Why
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.“
―Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Also, why do you need lots of money? Are you sure you really want to? Or did other people give you the impression you need to? Are you using money to divert from obvious character flaws that you don’t want to work on? In my experience, I just never met anyone interesting that needed to make lots of money. I know fascinating people that have a lot of money. I also knew them before they had it, and they were already captivating.
Act One: The Testing
“We have a strategic plan, its called doing things.”
Step 1—Don’t Wish It Were Easier Wish You Were Better
“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.“
The reason for doing this is twofold. First, you will monitor real purchasing intent. It’s easy to ask friends if they’d buy your product. They’ll probably say yes to be nice to you. They’ll probably even buy it to be supportive. You can’t create a business counting on your friends. Entrepreneurship is a solo trip—or at least it should be. Ben&Jerry’s are rare. Most people resent or will resent having one or several cofounders.
Step 2—The Bite You Can Chew
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.“
―Richard P. Feynman
Act Two: The Financing
“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from lack of imagination.“
Some people call this seed financing to let you know that they are in the startup financing world. Most of those people also ride bikes with one gear.
Anyway, the naming convention is irrelevant. Now, we have our market size and have genuine intent: we’re ready to get this show on the road. There’s just a tiny detail we forgot. We are cash-flow challenged. This can be for various reasons. You might just have no money at all, or you might just be short a couple of thousands or tens of thousands.
Step 0-the self-employed consultant
“Many a false step was made by standing still.“
Is this risky? A lot of people would say it is. I would say it’s only as risky as your inability to turn your venture into a value-generating behemoth—simple. More conservative people will tell you to finance with investors or save more money and then launch yourself. Those are fine pieces of advice.
Step 1-Last Credit Rating Hero
“Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.“
Suppose you don’t have access to these numbers—get into a fast cash scheme. The best quick cash scheme I know is to get a job. Nothing makes money faster without money than working for someone else. After working a couple of months, you can then apply for loans and credit cards.
Step 2-The Bargaining Chips
“You shoot your arrow, and then you paint your bullseye around it, and therefore you have hit the target dead center.“
Investors see companies as devices to create money. Entrepreneurs see companies as instruments to create outcomes for people and money as the fuel. There’s nothing wrong with investors wanting to make money, but they might divert you from your vision.
Act Three: Death of Democracy/Reclaiming Complete Ownership
“I can’t give you a surefire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everyone all the time.“
―Herbert Bayard Swope
There’s very little pressure to scale when only you are paying for everything. The more, the merrier applies to friends, plates at family dinners, and weight on the barbell—not to investors.
Go, do and become!
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