It’s the big moment where I tell you to go check out BrazenCareerist.com. It’s the first stage of our company, and it’s a network of fifty young bloggers who I love, all blogging about their professional interests.
This would be a great time to tell you the grand story of the birth of my grand company.
When people tell you about their company they always tell you the mythology. You know Pierre Omidyar deciding to sell his girlfriend’s Pez containers and then making eBay, James Hong talking about sorting through photos of girls with his dad in the early days of hotornot. But those stories are really the ones you create after the fact.
During the very early days of a startup, there is no mythology. There is only doubt, Ramen, and fighting. For the lucky few founders, there is probably some smooth-things-over sex, but mostly early startup life is suffering. Suffering with a twist.
The twist is that entrepreneurs are generally very optimistic, so we can spin suffering into fun. I never thought of myself as optimistic until I took a test in Oprah’s magazine and found that I was so optimistic that I’m maybe borderline delusional.
But without the optimism, here’s what a startup really looks like: nothing.
For a while, my startup was my column. I always knew it was the basis for something bigger, but I couldn’t tell people that. People think you’re crazy if you tell them you’re doing a business when it doesn’t look like a business. So I kept building my column and the audience and then my blog and its audience until I could think of a company to launch with it.
What I’ve learned by now is that when you start doing your company, there is nothing really to do, and everything to think about. In fact, researchers know that there is no single entrepreneurial trait that predicts success except the propensity to mitigate risk. That’s right. Entrepreneurs are not crazy risk takers but rather people who are trying to decrease the risk as much as they can.
So successful entrepreneurs decide to start a company and then think about it. They play with it in their mind. Maybe they talk about it, just a little. And then they make a commitment to the company, and you know what? Nothing changes. It still looks like a lot of nothing, because it’s mostly just thinking.
And there’s no one to talk to because you’ve been fighting with your partner for weeks because you’re so angry that there’s nothing to do. And you can’t talk to your friends or business associates because they’ll say “When are you going to start your company?” and you’ll snap, “I told you ten times that I already have started the company.”
If people knew what they were doing at the beginning of the startup then early investments would be much less risky. But the truth is that business plans are so apt to change that no angel investor has even asked us for one.
Here’s our business plan: Leverage our established brand to build a big community of young professionals. Here’s what we have: a network of fifty bloggers who have agreed to participate in a community of people helping each other with careers.
And this is also happening: we have a slew of companies asking us to consult with them to tell them how to deal with Generation Y. But that is not in our business plan. We are so excited to take in money that we’re doing it anyway.
Our mythology will not be about how we spent months not knowing for sure what to do, and sort of launching and then pulling back to rejigger things and then going at it again. That is not typical startup mythology; that is typical startup constipation.
Our mythology is going to be something like: we knew we were experts in Generation Y, and we did a lot of consulting to fund a community of young professionals. Or, maybe our mythology will be that crazy startup that Penelope couldn’t stop blogging about.