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Startups + Incubators - Part 2
04.02.11
After my blog post on Startups + Incubators, a number of people wrote to me about it and I just wanted to expand a little more on it.
 
Here are some of the problems, I think, when one is starting some new venture:
 
1. It's lonely.
The problem here is that it's mentally draining. You just need someone else to talk to. Sometimes for guidance but often just to have someone to talk to -- maybe work though problems or maybe just vent.
 
2. Sometimes you just don't know.
Sometimes you just don't. You need some amount of expertise / advice / or whatever else and you're not going to figure it out by just sitting and contemplating or buying books or researching on Google.
 
3. Sometimes you want to quit.
And perhaps it's easy. Perhaps a company offers you a great job or you / your family need the money or whatever else. 
 
Even if an actual incubator is not necessarily what you want -- here's why I think that rough structure is desirable.
 
Response to (1): You're no longer lonely. It's not you in your apartment. It's you with a bunch of other people. Or maybe it's a couple of you in a cramped office. I think there is something about physical proximity to others when there is just so much chaos and so many things to figure out. You can try and do it virtually but it's really hard. 
 
Response to (2): Having people who know more, or have a different perspective, or just have distance to the problem is hard to beat. With an incubator -- they're all there. They have a huge mental library to reference -- dozens of startups maybe? What's the appropriate comp structure for a sales force? Is this too much to pay for a designer? What PR firm should we hire? What VCs might be interested in my company? There are lots of people who can give good advice on these topics. There's a lot of stuff, but it's not rocket science. 
 
Response to (3): If you're already in an incubator (or gotten others to emotionally invest in your company by being engaged with it on some sort of advisory / board level) -- then quitting means something totally different. You're already in something and you're leaving it. As opposed to trying to develop something and then deciding to no longer pursue it. There's a greater psychological loss because you've invested so much and so you're less likely to do it (quit).
 
It sounds like I'm pushing incubators and while I do really like this idea -- that's not necessarily what I'm saying. What I am saying is there's real value in right alignment. Knowing others who do what you do. Having tremendous flow of information. Getting advice from trusted sources. Entrepreneurs who are on their 2nd startup typically don't do incubators. Why? All those things they already have. They know other entrepreneurs. They're totally wired in and they have plenty of people to call on for advice. But if it's your first go around -- that type of environment provides a lot of value.
 
One last point. In college, I had a lot of classes where we would get a problem set and think it was absolutely impossible to do. I wouldn't have the foggiest idea where to start. However, I also knew that in a week's time, I would submit a relatively solved problem set. This was factually true because I had somehow done it every time before. But it was still this odd tension -- not having any idea how to do something yet knowing that it was going to get done. That's my point here. If you're surrounded by other folks (or better yet, in a program with lots of successful alums) -- and they're all going to get it done -- even if it's just out of fear of failure / humiliation -- I think the likelihood you get something done just went up exponentially.

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