I just read an article in The Next Web, where the author explores the mediocrity of the start-up scene in Silicon Valley. That the vast majority of the start-ups are meaningless, produces no value, and are initiated for the wrong reasons, namely to exit quickly and make a nice pile of cash. According to the author, the business of starting up a business must not be approached as what it is – to pay the rent and put butter on the bread – but must be done for philanthropic reasons.
It’s not that I don’t get the point, because I do. An entrepreneur, who actively believes in his idealistic vision, is easier to idolise and if only everybody were like that then the world would be a better place and people would smile and not curse.
However, it’s utopian to assume that big successes don’t attract ambitious youngsters, who would like to earn money and fame. Ignoring the obvious monsters of Silicon Valley, a simple project like Instagram, where still only the 2 or 3 founders are working (at least last I checked), is an example of how easy you can get traction using limited resources. These successes are conceived because hundreds are trying. If nobody gave the small and accessible ideas a shots, we wouldn’t get anywhere. And normally the big mammoths of the tech scene arise from the small ideas, which were just allowed to evolve. Did you know that Flickr started out as an online multiplayer game
On a side note it should be mentioned, that most venture capitalist find entrepreneurs more attractive if they have failed with a start-up beforehand. The reasoning is that they have gained experience, even in tough times etc. If failing actually turns out to be a positive thing, why patronise youngsters who get into the game of entrepreneurship early, potentially fail, allowing them to move on to more demanding projects wiser and more experienced?
Secondly, if you can build a small start-up, offering say an iPhone app, in days, this makes sense, since the risks are that much smaller. It just makes sense that you see more of these since barriers to entry are so low. This is just a trait of a competitive market.
Since Silicon Valley has become the synonym of tech start-ups it’s the natural place to initiate a tech business. Even the incompetent entrepreneurs flock to the area, however that does not limit any of the competent entrepreneurs from succeeding, or any of the successful companies from becoming even more successful. It may drag the average success rate down, but I don’t agree with the argument that Silicon Valley experiences a problem from this, as the title of the article, which I’m attacking, argues. Eventually the idiot entrepreneurs will give up and get a job (at one of the surviving ventures, perhaps), they will succeed with the subsequent project, or they will leave.
Last point; are the entrepreneurs too short-sighted, and too unambitious in terms of solving the problems of the world? How can the author be so moralising as to assume that entrepreneurs are more responsible of solving world hunger, warfare and health problems than other people? Anybody taking a 9-5 job is just as responsible (or just as little), however entrepreneurs are generating work for future employees, at least in a much more direct way than the average office slave. Any current entrepreneur, retired entrepreneur or venture capitalist is encouraging a rookie business founder to create a product/service that he would want to use himself. And if you want to use an app, that directs you to the nearest tofu cupcake, then that’s what you should build. And not be criminalised because of it.