We’ve been fooled by the startup frenzy.
The giant sucking sound left by the great recession built cynicism towards corporate executives and Wall Street gazillionaires, turning entrepreneurs into heroes. Millions became inspired by those like Zuckerberg, Brin, Williams, and Pincus, thinking they could build a business with lines of code and checks from investors.
On the race towards economic freedom – America’s true global competitive advantage – the light in the distance became the startup. The funky name, the choice of platform, the hype, the path to exit.
And we left as roadkill the most important factors in the race: the people and the process.
We forgot about the importance of the entrepreneurs: those left-of-center, visionary, tenacious, adaptable, and wildly driven personas. The types of people who are not as common as you might think and certainly not something that anyone can be. We stopped talking about what it takes to be an entrepreneur and shifted the conversation to what it takes to do a startup.
We also forgot about the truths of that journey: the pothole-laden roller coaster ride that takes far longer than expected. Partially because you were never trained to do this, partially because you actually have to create value in the marketplace, partially because details matter, and partially because it’s more about inspiring a team than being inspired to build something.
Jim Jacoby, an extraordinarily thoughtful and bright entrepreneur who has dedicated himself to studying (and now teaching) craftsmanship, recently wrote to me that a “craft” is:
A set of skills pursued for extended periods in one’s career that produces functional, beautiful, and engaging results. It’s what you do for a living and do for a passion, because you couldn’t do otherwise, even if you wanted. It’s the core set of skills that can be elevated to mastery through a lifetime of work, improvement, and knowledge sharing.
We’ve forgotten that entrepreneurship is a craft, entrepreneurs are craftsmen, and “doing a startup” is the first step towards craftsmanship.
It’s not about the finish line, it’s about the race. It’s not about the car, it’s about the driver.