For the last year I’ve been running a company while building a software as a service product within the same ecosystem.
Because it seems that only the 1% in Silicon Valley are really going to make it big. What about the rest of us who don’t have the connections to get funded? Or live in big cities to recruit talent? Or a big exit under our belt?
Famous startups that have built strong companies in a grass root movement, without major funding, like 37Signals are the exception. Scratch that itch with your product while preparing to live and die by it.
These are the stories we all love – but are even harder to attain than the big valuation or investment startups.
It’s a double edge sword that can easily cut you.
How can we, “the working guy/gal” succeed against the 1% of startups?
ValleyWood (the 1%)
Groupon? I think it’s the worst idea since the Snuggie. But guess what? It’s worth billions.
There are companies in ValleyWood (Silicon Valley if you haven’t picked that up yet) that are getting tremendous funding, valuations, scooping up copyrights and patents to become the 1%.
If you listen in on patent trolling and legal costs conversations alone, you begin wondering if this is what you signed up for.
How does a local startup compete with this? How does a small company in Dartmouth Ma with a dream and passion to succeed go against Goliath? What about some rural town in Nebraska?
Move to the Bay area? Silicon valley? New York?
It’s 2011 going on 2012. We all work remote, HD video is getting better, collaboration is at an all time high.
Does the 1% have the inherent advantage because the investors with money can scoop up the ideas before anyone else? Take that a step further, scoop up the humans behind the ideas.
Sometimes it’s like watching the movie Running Man with all the popular “startup game shows” popping up all over the place.
These entrepreneurs subjecting themselves to busting their humps and humility in order to get funding or just noticed.
Why are today’s entrepreneurs so glamored by The Social Network?
To my fellow leaders, entrepreneuers and visionaries:
Build a company you love, that will succeed for the next 100 years.
Be a true business person that not only wants to succeed in the market, but create jobs, and help your local community.
Here’s what this economy needs: Blue Collar Technology.
Why are you signing up to Groupon that will blitzkrieg a small coffee shop with 1 time penny pinchers? Why not signup with the coupon site that your local college kid built? Why backup your data with Mozy, when you can sign up with a local integrator? Why buy a website from 99 designs when you can build one from a local studio?
The list goes on.
Next Saturday is Small Business Saturday in America. There should be the same for local tech startup.
I’m managing a startup, within a startup. A startup that is more “mom and pop” than anything.
Folks in Silicon Valley, TechCrunch and the like would never feature another web design shop. Jason Calacanis would never call me to interview me for the awesome WordPress sites Slocum Studio puts together. I’m working really hard to build a strong grassroots business to help local business on the web.
With this foundation, more importantly cash flow, we’re pressing on to build a powerful web app.
What can we do as the 99% of startups not moving to Silicon Valley? Do we form our own coalition? Here are three thoughts:
1. Start Local. Be Local.
You know what the most powerful form of Social Media is? A local meetup. A face to face chat. An invite to speak at a local college. Get out from behind the computer and GO MEET PEOPLE.
Sure it’s great to get someone with a million followers to tweet out your link. Awesome to get featured on TechCrunch. That’s all flash in the pan.
2. Stop Building For The 1%
Here’s something I think big VC and ValleyWood are blind to. The 1% is building for the 1%.
I’m the 1% of tech users. I know 99 other people out of 100 (close friends and relatives) that I could never get them to use the Oink app, Foursquare, or buy from Fab.com.
People need to build for the 99%.
Let’s go back to 37 signals. If you watched them mature over the years, you will know, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
Starting out as a web design shop, shifting to a radical web app startup, to a cutting edge free flowing startup, to now have more structure than ever before. We’re talking years of transformation.
The great part is Jason and David are doing it themselves, their way.
Just be honest with yourself. Do you want an exit or do you want to build a company you’re happy with every day for the rest of your life?
In The End, We Keep Pushing
In the end, they worked their asses off to get where they were just like we are.
This should be more of a call to action to people looking for technology (consumer or investor), to look local. Look within your nearest major city or town even. There is talent everywhere and people doing some pretty amazing things.
For the startup out there reading this – form meetups, groups, events to promote the cause.
For God’s sake SHARE yourself and your story with competitors and other businesses. Don’t hide away like you’ve developed some secret recipe to be the next Zuckerberg. (Less you have, move to the Bay Area, hook up with @sacca, let me build your website, and get some cash money!)
And don’t forget to HUSSLE. Watch a video by Gary Vaynerchuck every morning if you have to. If you’re not ready to conquer the world or at least beat someone up after a solid week of that – you might not have a pulse.
Just because we’re not getting swooned by Sean Parker at some after hours rave party – does not mean we can’t succeed.