Hi, I'm Nick. This is my blog. I'm a life-long unschooler living in New York. You can find more about me here.

I help run the Recurse Center (YC'S10).

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Starting a company is hard. So what?

August 20, 2010

My friend Jonathan Wegener blogged yesterday about why he thinks young entrepreneurs shouldn't do business to business ("B2B") startups. My co-founder Dave and I are 20-somethings and our company HireHive is a B2B startup, so, unsurprisingly, I think Jonathan's totally wrong. Here's why:

1)  Identifying Opportunities is Hard

Nonsense. Identifying opportunities is easy. When Dave and I decided to start a company we came up with dozens of ideas that solved tangible problems. Problems exist all over the place and as soon as you start looking for them you see them everywhere.

Don't believe me? Here's a list of juicy problems off the top of my head: eliminating wait times for call centers, helping people find good doctors and schedule appointments without wanting to gauge their eyes out (the entire healthcare industry actually is little more than a massive set of problems), local product search ("where's the closest place that has silver paint in stock that is open right now?"), making the airport experience suck less, helping people find compatible roommates, and making projectors that work more than 50% of the time.

2) Building the Right Product is Hard... it’s tough to get product-market fit from the position of an outside observer.

This is a silly straw-man argument. You're not an "outside observer" once you're building a product, working directly with customers and thinking 24/7 about your problem domain. How do you do this? Well, you can start by following Steve Blank's advice and get out of the building and actually talk to customers. Does that make it easy? No. But it's never easy. That's the nature of the game.

A related issue: anytime you’re solving someone else’s problem, staying motivated becomes tough.  Will focusing on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow sustain the necessary passion to succeed?

This is a false dichotomy. Yes, plenty of founders are driven primarily by money or a desire to scratch their own itch. But those aren't the only two motivating factors for startups. Others include helping people, changing the world, gaining respect, defying your family, creating beautiful products, solving incredibly hard problems, a love of the risk and excitement of entrepreneurship, and dozens of others.

And if you're at all worried at the onset about whether you'll have the determination to keep going, you're already in trouble.

3)  Sales, Marketing, and Business Development are Hard... Without industry experience, you won’t have the personal relationships to get your food [sic] in the door and close deals and you won’t know the right distribution channels.

These things are always hard. All other things being equal, sure it'd be easier to start with lots of personal relationships and business contacts in your field, but it's not essential. You can establish these as you go, through persistence and elbow grease, going to conferences and industry events, and doing a program like Y Combinator.

No founder no matter how well-connected will have enough connections when she starts.  Aren't these relationships and connections a big part of what angels and other investors are supposed to bring to the table anyway?

Jonathan's right about one thing, though: It is an uphill battle. But everyone trying to start a business faces an uphill battle. That's by definition. Otherwise, businesses would just start themselves. Startups face tons of obstacles, and that's what makes them fun. I wake up every morning facing more challenges than I can count, but each one Dave and I overcome, we get to call a milestone and move on to the next one.

At HireHive, we don't have decades of experience as either job seekers or hiring managers. But we do have an intense passion to help people find jobs they love and companies hire more effectively. We also have a strong vision for the future and are absolutely determined to fix the mess that is the present day "hiring process."

That's a big, nasty problem for sure, but I wouldn't want it any other way.