344: Why I Hate Tech Startups

A listener sent me a voice memo asking what I have against tech startups on my Businesses I Hate page, and it’s a valid question because there are people that do get tremendously successful through the tech route. 

My approach to entrepreneurship, as seen in my Business I Love section, is focused on stuff that isn’t new, it isn’t sexy, and it frankly isn’t fun. I don’t have a beef with technology, it’s changed my life; Bolt Storage is wildly disruptive from a technological standpoint with fully remote staff and a great tech stack, and Twitter has opened incredible doors for me. But that doesn’t mean it’s the path most entrepreneurs should be taking.

I hate tech startups because of the odds of success. You face tremendous amounts of talented competition.

Entrepreneurs should seriously consider who they want to compete with. Do you want to compete against Stanford grads and venture capital firms, or people who make a profit while using fax machines and outdated systems? So many tech startups don’t make it, and so many new ideas fail, while I’ve found great success for myself by sticking to boring, sweaty markets.

Entrepreneurship embodies this romanticized vision of Shark Tank and Tech Crunch and newness and innovation when in reality most people need to simplify the way they think. I judged a pitch competition at UGA a few months ago, and all I could think of with every pitch was the need to simplify. People want to complicate things, do something revolutionary, and chase glory and the lure of entrepreneurship, but that doesn’t mean they have a real shot at being successful.

When you take away the sex appeal and fun, you come into a more rational and less saturated market. There’s a shortage of people doing things that aren’t fun, that’s why plumbers make more than most people with liberal arts degrees.

With sweaty businesses, all you need to do is answer the phone and do what you say you’re going to do and you can make a lot of money. Innovation is sexy and fun, but the way people make real money is by copying others. My first business was just a Frankenstein take on the current offerings and competitors I saw around me.

The businesses I love aren’t fun. People are told to chase their passion, but the entrepreneurs that make money are chasing customers. The market doesn’t care about your passion, you need to provide real value in something that customers want.

Even with fun projects, every entrepreneur with a sizable business does the same thing: hire, manage people, build systems, fire, and sell. Whether it’s me, Elon Musk, or the lawn mowing company down the street, we’re all focusing on the same activities.

I suggest you look at the market unemotionally and find the best odds for yourself. Entrepreneurs want to change the world, but the best way you can change the world is to make money and build your skills, then give back. The best decision I ever made was chasing a business that wasn’t sexy; I made a bit of money and learned a ton about hiring, managing people, building processes, firing, and selling, the same stuff that keeps me busy today.

So I don’t hate technology, and some people shouldn’t listen to this advice. But for most people looking to start a business, I think sweaty startups give you the best odds for real success.

If you want to ask a question, record a voice memo on your phone and email me at [email protected]

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About Me

I started the Sweaty Startup in December of 2018 because I believe the Shark Tank and Tech Crunch culture is ruining the real spirit of low-risk entrepreneurship.