How not to startup
Step one: Name and logo. This always comes first.
It’s got to rock, man. That’s how you know you’re cool.
My best guess: draw a circle, split it into four with an X, and put some vector art inside it. Black and white only! Colors are so 2015.
Then find a single word that sounds pretty cool when you say it out loud and also has a double meaning if you squint a bit, like “Flow” or “Horse”. This must come first.
Get some business cards printed and register a disruptive domain name. flow.horse. Yeah.
Drink a fine whisky while you’re doing this, like an 18-year Oban or a rare Macallan.
Step two: Do the research.
Read everything Paul Graham has ever written.
That’s it. You’re ready.
Step three: Fake it til you make it.
Get a Patagonia vest and make sure you’ve got a couple of pairs of AirPods. When one pair runs out of battery, mid-conversation maybe, just swap them out with the next one. It pays to be prepared.
Talk to a whole bunch of famous people on Twitter. Hang out on Clubhouse. Develop a laconic techno-libertarian stance on everything. Remember to mention to someone online that San Francisco is bad now.
Constantly drink very expensive coffee, maybe with mushrooms in it for some reason.
Step four: Execute.
How are you going to change the world?
With decentralized finance?
With highly optimized vertical farming?
Whatever it is, hire someone on Upwork to make your vision a reality.
Step five: Become a thought leader.
Keep track of your thinking in Roam Research for days on end, until you realize you’re just writing a Choose Your Own Adventure novel that goes around and around in circles. The rampaging polar bear on page 9 should have been the first clue. Polar bears are not innovation.
When you start writing about marauding bears over and over, it’s time to start a Substack.
You need to write about your honorable startup journey on a regular basis. Just the good stuff, obviously: Substack is like Instagram for brains. Nobody wants to think of you as a real person. You’re an insight-crushing machine and absolutely nothing more. Hopes and dreams? Take them to OnlyFans.
Remember: when someone calls you authentic, they’re calling you weak. Flex your mind-guns.
Step six: ask your parents to fund you.
If you can’t raise a “friends and family” round, how can you ask anyone else to put money in your venture? God.
Ask any investor: founder pedigree matters. If you can’t raise money from your parents’ influential friends or the world-famous institution you definitely went to, what even are you?
Step seven: raise money from investors who don’t care about you.
Dolla dolla bill, y’all!
Who an investor is doesn’t matter. What you tell investors doesn’t matter, as long as you don’t technically lie. Just get their dollars by any means necessary.
What can be better than having a hundred people on your cap table who gave you a bunch of cash without doing proper due diligence in either direction? It’s easy money, man.
Just for example, if they’re a former child star with sex abuse allegations under their belt — who cares? Take that cash. Nothing can go wrong. Technology is inherently ethical and nothing in the past matters. That’s why they call it Blitzscaling.
When you get the money, buy one of those big bottles of champagne you sometimes see on TV or in used car dealerships. It’s the classy thing to do.
Step eight: make bank.
Look at everything you achieved! You’ve got a logo and a name with a sweet horse domain; you’re one of the world leaders in knowing things Paul Graham has said on his website; you’ve got high-quality winter-wear; a technical cofounder in Ukraine; readers who sub on your every stack; your mom and dad’s retirement fund; some dubious near-criminal types who you entered a financial relationship with. You’re living the dream! And you wrote an erotic non-linear novel about polar bears!
Remember in SimCity when you built a city and summoned Godzilla to trample it into dust? Yeah. It’s time to sell.
Through your investors, find someone who owes them a favor to buy you so you can save face. You’ll look good; they’ll look good; the investors will look good; and the acquirers will have a sweet, sweet horse domain. It’s win-win-win-win.
When you sell, spend three months off doing keto. When the marauding polar bears return, realize you accidentally started a ketamine diet and restart but also tell people about the mind expanding ideas you had when you were mistakenly taking equine tranquilizers. Plank a lot. Ultimately get a Peloton and a Mirror and set them up so you can see yourself Pelotoning in the Mirror.
Step nine: teach other founders.
It’s time to do the conference circuit. Maybe write a book! Go in and do office hours at an accelerator. Consider typing up a rider that includes having an expensive coffee first. Bring your own mushroom powder.
Then do it all again. Fail forward, man. You got this.
This is what a lot of startup porn reads like to me. To be clear: entrepreneurship is not a male activity; it is not performative; it is vital to be inclusive and ethical; it’s not about the rich or the conservative. And there is no pattern for what an entrepreneur looks like, where they come from, or what their path to success is. Let’s — please — all do better together.