Passion: What Every Startup Needs, but Never Talks About

By Gabriel Parisi-Amon

Over the past few years “I’m doing a start up” has become the mid 2000s version of “I’m an investment banker.” And although I believe that more awareness about starting ventures is a great thing, I think that following the herd into the startup world is dangerous. Startups can bring a person fortune and fame, but 99% of the time they don’t bring either. If you are doing a start up because it is cool, and you want to be rich and famous, I beg of you, go to Goldman Sachs, Blackrock, or whichever Hedge fund is the flavor of the week. The NPV of these jobs is much higher than doing a startup. And if you are driven to startups for fame or fortune, you lack the most important attribute of a founder: passion.

In a startup it doesn’t hurt to be smart, being lucky is always useful, and almost every entrepreneur I know is driven. However, the one characteristic I believe every entrepreneur needs is passion. Passion will get you through the hardest times, and spring you forward when things are good. Passion, at every step of the venture, will allow you to overcome adversity, or implement the infamous “Reality Distortion Field.” From hiring employees, to getting customers and funding, it is your passion that will show through more than anything else.

Whether you are looking for a co-founder or an engineer, you need to convince someone, with many other opportunities, that this is the best place to work. You won’t be able to offer competitive salaries, or perks, but what you offer is a vision of what the company can become. As a founder your, sometimes illogical, passion is how you convince new employees to take a risk, and join something which is currently small, but could one day be huge.

Getting Customers
Acquiring customers for a new product is hard. Customers are used to the status quo, and even if the product is free there is a time or switching cost associated with using a new product. In order to woo your first customer, and the 100 after that, you need to show more than just a value proposition. You must show why this is the best product they can use, and before you can convince others to use it, you must believe in the idea to your core. 

The Ups and Downs
Startups will get hard. You may have to pitch 50 VCs before anyone shows interest. There will be long nights working on features that become irrelevant the next week, and months where it looks like you will never make it. Being cool, or the allure of wealth and fame, are not enough to sustain someone through these trails. However, passion for the product, the industry, and the people you are trying to help can get you through almost anything. 

Having passion does not guarantee startup success. Even with passion the NPV of a startup is horrible. However, without passion what happens when startups become less cool, and you realize that the chances of fame and fortune are one in a million?


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