Hey, I'm Jordan Messina. Previously, I was co-founder at Insurance Zebra (Alphalab) and co-founder at Designly (Y Combinator). Find me on Github, Twitter and Hacker News.

Startup Roulette

It is ridiculously easy to start a company now. You just learn to program, or better yet, just get one of those mythical creatures they call a technical co-founder, and build stuff. Type in 'heroku create' and boom, you've got a startup. And if you’re lucky, you have the chance of getting some phat stacks. Startups have become the new age casino game, easy to play and great payouts for the lucky ones.

For many, it really is just a gamble; you roll the dice and accept it when you fail. Maybe you have a great team of hackers. You follow the lean startup methodology. You ship early, you ship often. You do all the things startups are suppose to do. So when it fails, you feel like it’s not your fault, you were just unlucky this time. You can always play again. It’s startup roulette, where failing is expected and accepted. However, this gambling mentality turns out to be the cause for so many failed startups.

The Consequences of Gambling

The idea that most startups fail because there’s only room for a finite amount of winners is a fallacy. The truth is, most startups fail because they’re treated like a gamble and failure is expected. Calling a company a startup makes it easier for founders to accept failure, It’s a safety net. They didn't fail, their startup did. They’re encouraged to just gamble again. Most founders are looking for the easy road to hitting the jackpot. When they don’t find it with one idea, they move on to the next. They make a little more progress this time, not making the same mistakes, but when times get tough, they do what’s easiest: give up. On to the next idea.

Where is the fight?

If every founder had perseverance like the Weebly founders, I think there’d be so many more winners. If there was a real consequence for failing, founders wouldn’t give up so easily. Founders would get creative, they'd fight to win more. Instead, most failed founders avoid humiliation by not taking personal responsibility. They deflect those feelings toward the startup. They stop fighting for their company as soon as it gets really hard. They’d rather take a nice salary at Google than tough it out for something they once believed in, and that’s a shame.

The Overlooked Characteristic

The founders with the best chance of succeeding are the ones that are smart, creative, and hardworking. You’ll discover these characteristics from a simple conversation, but these aren’t enough. You also need courage, and this is much harder to to come by. Founders with courage make no excuses. Failure isn’t an option. It is not acceptable. These founders will be successful because they’re focusing on building a real company while everyone else is losing at startup roulette.

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