Tonight I was standing outside the Synagogue holding my son, Marlon, who was conveniently unable to sit through Yom Kippur services. I was reading this Techcrunch article which featured Ron Conway giving advice to his startups in these dire economic times (I’ve gotten very good at holding Marlon in one hand and my iPhone in the other). Maybe it’s just the nature of the holiday but I began feeling very thankful for what I had in the non-iPhone hand. I also started to think about applying some of the logic that Ron Conway described.
He gave a lot of advice about tightening up, focusing on monetization and making sure you had “enough” to last for a while. I’ve been doing plenty of complaining about raising money lately and everyone has told me that it’s nearly impossible to do so in this market, particularly for consumer-focused internet companies that have an as-of-yet-determined business model.
Maybe we’ve all been focusing on the wrong thing? Maybe our little burrito-funded startup is onto something? 12seconds came out of a group called “the geeks.” It’s like a Santa Cruz social club that meets every once in a while to drink beers. It’s the kind of group where you can talk about Twitter without having to explain it. Beach had a cool idea and a bunch of us decided to build it. Why not?
As an entrepreneur you face a lot of barriers. First, there are a lot of people who will tell you that your idea kinda sucks. Next, you will try to assemble some super team that can get it done. After that, you’ll try to make it a legal entity and create a cap table that everyone agrees to. Once everyone feels good about that you’ll try to build some of it and raise money. Oh you’ll argue about using basecamp and google groups and you’ll reconsider your brand and naming, create email accounts, stickers and buttons. You’ll talk about all the things you’re going to do “once you get funded.” But then you don’t and everything stops.
12seconds has gone way farther than any non-funded startup I’ve ever been a part of. We haven’t “succeeded” yet but we’re rockin’ 100K uniques in our second month and even though we’ll have a couple ups and downs our traffic is showing sustained growth.
By accident, we did something different with 12seconds. We weren’t so much a company as we were a community. We tapped into a larger pool of people who all had something to give. Some gave a lot and others gave when they had time. We built a community of contributors. No one ever asked what the payoff would be. Everyone expected some stock but most made it clear that the stock wasn’t why they were doing it. They did it because they wanted to be a part of it. It was passion. The passion to build something they believed in. To launch it. To see it done.
You’re thinking that 12seconds is a bunch of hippie/surfers from Santa Cruz. Believe me, every single person on our team would love to be wealthy. But, I’m willing to wager (my zero dollars) that most successful entrepreneurs were more passionate about seeing their ideas come to life then the monetary rewards associated with their success. This isn’t to say that monetary rewards aren’t a close second
Here’s what I have to say in these difficult economic times…
There is no better time to create a community of friends who can come together and execute on your brilliant idea. Don’t let the roadblocks of fundraising get in your way. Remove the roadblock by allowing many people to share in your dream. Don’t get hung up on share allocation or valuation. Throw a wider net and get everyone who has something to contribute involved.
Why do you raise funds? To pay people. Every single person at 12seconds has another job or consults. No one gets paid. Yes, we’d all love to work on 12seconds full time. Perhaps one day we will raise money and get paid. But the lack of funding is not and will not be the barrier that stops us.
If you have an idea or a startup and need some encouragement then get in your car and come down Santa Cruz and hang out with us. If you want to be involved in what we’re doing, great. If you just want some help on your thing, we’re here for you. But, whatever you do, don’t get too wrapped up in negativity. Your idea is great before, during and after economic turmoil.
Don’t be discouraged. Create community and succeed together.