Broken from the start: the art of working for a startup

When you’re working for an early stage company, times get tough, and you often end up thinking that you’re the only company with problems. No way does everyone else have these problems. You read an article in TechCrunch about a company raising a boatload of cash and you start to imagine how great their lives are over there. You go to their site and click around on the surface.  It looks like their product is flawless from here.  They’ve made recent changes, they’re optimizing for everything. If you close your eyes and concentrate, you can taste the free meals their team is eating every day.

The article definitely made things sound good, but we all know this is false. If you could see under the hood, you’d find out that it’s not all lolcats and double rainbows in there. This company’s shit does in fact stink.  The bottom line is that EVERYONE has problems.  From the start, almost everything that can be broken, is just that.  It starts off that way by omission.  “We can’t do A, B, or C because we don’t have a budget or even the bandwith if we wanted to do A, B, or C.” TechCrunch painted the wrong picture for you.

When you work at a startup you’re learning to be Ok with incomplete. Ship an incomplete product, work with an incomplete team, or have an incomplete understanding of your product market fit. I could work for the rest of the year, straight through and I’d still be behind on “what could be done”.  I go home every day with a heap of untapped opportunities piling up in Asana. I’d say this one of the most important training grounds for current/past/future founders.  How well can you handle being in the shit for days/weeks/months/years?

Fast forward to the moment where you’re sitting down for dinner with the founder of the company you read about in TechCrunch.  “How are things going over there? You guys still finding any challenges to work on? Har har.” You feed em‘ a couple drinks, keep asking questions, and suddenly you start getting answers.  Diarrhea of the mouth occurs and the founder spills all the beans. You start to realize everyone has their problems. They don’t go away, and well, you’re not alone. I guess what they say is true:

Startups are hard.

But how else am I supposed to make friends?