Where's My Billion Dollar Check, I Wonder

When a blockbuster deal happens, a lot of people get excited. The press is all over it, money comes pouring into startups in search of the next one, people quit jobs and school to get in the game. It's a gold rush.

But there's another reaction that I have heard a lot in the past few weeks that is quite different. It is "why not me?" The title of this post is from an email between me and an entrepreneur I know who will go nameless.

It sums up the emotion so well for me.

Startups are hard. They require great sacrifice from everyone. They are stressful and fail more often than they succeed.

And when you've been toiling away month after month, year after year, with no pot of gold in sight, it can be hard to watch that billion dollar deal go down. It's a punch to the gut. It hurts.

I'd love to say to all of you who are feeling that pain that your time will come. But most likely it will not. That's the way this game is played.

Over the history of the institutional VC business (the past 40 years) the number of companies started every year that turn out to be worth billions sustainably is in the tens not the hundreds. If you are looking for a billion dollar check in the startup game, you are playing for lottery odds.

So if you are doing the startup game for money, and lots of it, you are in for a plate full of frustration. It must be for more than that. It must be for the love of the game, a passion for what you are bringing to market, and for the chance that you will hit paydirt. But it is a lot more likely that you will watch someone else hit the big payday than hitting it yourself. And that sucks.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. kreighwilliams

    if someone is doing this purely for the money/chance to hit it big I doubt how long they can stay in the game.

    1. fredwilson


    2. Anthony Frasier

      Agreed. Mentally you have to be there.

    3. Avi Deitcher

      100%. If you aren’t in it to build a company, to build long-term value for the economy, society, and most of all, your customers, your chances of failure multiply, and you are almost guaranteed burnout.

  2. jason wright

    Make a billion or die trying – not a sustainable.I’m a follower of the Danish School of thought on this subject.

  3. jerrycolonna

    I see this all the time Fred. To me, it’s even more troubling than you describe. The Instagram-like exit becomes the standard against which people measure themselves. Anything less becomes evidence of their failure. I used to measure my self worth against Bill Gates’ net worth and guess what? I came up short.Then the whole mess becomes a distraction from the real work. I hate when crazy deals happen (especially when I don’t make any money!). They send everyone into a frenzy.I’m in Istanbul, waiting for my flight to Munich. I heard such talk just this morning.

    1. fredwilson

      the globetrotting startup yoda!i am glad you added this part “anything less becomes evidence of their failure”that’s the think i was trying to get at but didn’t quite get to

      1. jerrycolonna

        That particular meme showed up a dozen times with clients in the weeks following the instagram deal. It’s amazing how prevalent it is. As I often say, swim in your own lane. It doesn’t matter what the other guy does.

        1. fredwilson

          that’s the value of coaching right there in a nutshell

          1. jerrycolonna

            ūüėČ I also point out that, when standing at the urinal, it’s best to keep your head down and focused. Don’t look to your left or right. But for some reason the analogy doesn’t work for everyone.

          2. jason wright

            ¬†Jerry, has your flight been delayed? ūüôā

          3. Cindy Gallop

            LOVE that ūüôā

          4. John Revay

            Classic – especially the reasoning that the analogy¬†doesn’t¬†work for every one

          5. Matt A. Myers

            Similarly,”Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”‚ÄĒ Henry Ford

        2. Carl Rahn Griffith

          When your product has no quantifiable value, its value can be anywhere between $0 and $1,000,000,000, it seems…

    2. William Mougayar

      Well put. A dream is not a standard. But there are dreams.

    3. ShanaC

      Enjoy Istambul and Munich

    4. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Safe trip, Jerry.We must get you to London – and maybe even Yorkshire – and maybe even a Sheffield Wednesday football match, one of these days…

      1. jerrycolonna

        I love London. Give me a reason (other than football) and I’ll be there.

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          Lol, cool. Deal.

  4. David Nagy

    I’m not doing it for the money. And I’m so happy to say this.I’m doing it to transform the world.Hopefully, more people will find this pursue to be much more important than making some coins.

  5. awaldstein

    We train ourselves to be patient and calmly poised. The best do it for the love of the game. But human nature, especially for those who have not had wins along the way, still dream of a pot of gold. Maybe not a billion but payment nonetheless.

    1. fredwilson

      that is a lot more attainable. as jerry says, don’t measure yourself against the blockbusters.

      1. awaldstein

        Good advice that I didn’t mean to mollify.More and more the web is offering opportunities for businesses that can be significant and life changing without the big win or loose bet.¬†Winning is relative and personal is a good takeaway for everyone.

  6. Rohan

    Someone else always has the bigger yacht..

  7. feargallkenny

    Saw a good video of a Keynote from Evernote’s CEO Phil Libin on this same subject yesterday – http://thenextweb.com/video… The article does a decent job summarizing it if you dont have time to watch it

  8. William Mougayar

    But in the $100 million range, there a lot more of these companies, right?¬†Changing the world with your own money and direct efforts is easier than changing it via a product. Which is Bill Gates’ greater contribution: Microsoft or his foundation’s work?

    1. fredwilson

      yes, it’s a power law distribution of outcomes

  9. jason wright

    If we agree that we are all more similar to each other than different, then doing something that benefits my own life will possibly also benefit the lives of others.What I like about the web, what attracts me to it, is the possibility to distribute the something of benefit to a large number of others.Do I need to make a billion doing this? No. Would I like to also make a billion doing this? If it gives me the opportunity that I wouldn’t otherwise have to enable an agenda for change then yes.I have zero interest in the Ferrari, the penthouse, the……………

    1. jerrycolonna

      Needing and wanting are so very different. Knowing the difference is very helpful.

      1. jason wright

        So true.¬†I would have recommended The Tent if you are staying overnight in Munich, but it doesn’t open for the season until next month.¬†www.the-tent.comCheck it out one day.

        1. karen_e

          Wow – the Tent! I haven’t thought about that place in decades! I stayed there in … must have been 19-frickin-87! Thanks for the memories.

          1. jason wright

            They’ve got some big new round tents now, and a ‘green’ building for showering and the rest.Sleeping on the floor is only Euro 7.50 a night. What more could an entrepreneur need? ūüôā

          2. RichardF

            ¬†wifi ūüėČ

    2. JLM

      Have you ever actually driven a Ferrari?No freakin’ luggage space.The trip I’m on requires luggage.

      1. jason wright

        ¬†Context. I’ve never owned a car and I never will. I can drive. I travel light.”The trip I’m on requires luggage” – so the F stays in the garage? ;-)I would like to learn how to ride a horse well though.

        1. JLM

          Here’s the secret of riding a horse well — pick a damn good horse.I live in Texas and ride my horse to work every day dodging the tumbleweeds and Indians.When you come to Texas we will ride.

          1. FlavioGomes

            I got caught hanging from a stirrup once and the horse started a gallop.¬† My grandpa saved me…only use yer fucking toes in stirrups. It will save yer life.¬†

        2. JLM

          I drive an older car.  See below.

      2. LE

        I scaled down from an SUV to a Porsche. I didn’t even know an adult couldn’t fit in the back seats until I picked it up. Life is about compromise. Some of those Texas women are not as practical as the Russian babushkas either you know. ¬†But they are “as beautiful as Texas bluebonnets in a flowery dress”.(There is a guy with a website selling custom¬†fitted¬†luggage just for sports cars. )

  10. momoetomo

    It doesnt suck – It helps, because the ones who do it only for money get out earlier and that helps – mostly these people generate only money and no value for society and this really sucks.¬†And if you ask my what really sucks: it sucks that nobody writes the big stories about the startups who change a lot (hopefully for the bether), but dont have a great exit with a billion dollar valuation‚Ķ It really sucks that only big bucks make big news. But maybe that was intention of youre post ūüėČ

    1. JLM

      Every time I walk out of a taco joint, a dry cleaners, a flower shop, bagel bakery — I count the number of employees.I always remark to my wife that this little business provides the living for X number of people. It is now a joke of ours in that she often challenges my count.This is what makes America great — small entrepreneurial businesses which provide a livelihood for millions with no fanfare, no parades, no fireworks. ¬†Hard. ¬†Work.Not ENTREPRENEURS but entrepreneurs. ¬†People with real courage in souls who will not eat from another man’s kill.This lesson is what is missed by politicians today — help small businesses thrive and they will create jobs in staggering numbers.Throttle them in the cradle and we will struggle for a generation. ¬†Right now, we are struggling.It REALLY is that simple.

      1. momoetomo

        true – very true – even here in europe and even here in fairyland switzerland; but ¬† don’t forget who kills this small businesses.¬†efficiency,¬†innovation, big corporations, new business-models and specially new technology.¬†thats mostly us – we the internet. (ok were mostly not big corporations)happy coding!

      2. fredwilson


      3. ShanaC

        I like that idea.A bunch of friends and I mentioned that if I ever made big money, I’d probably scale down my business life so I could have more contact with “customers” (the way your florist does).It is something I would even do right now, but I often feel that we’re overregulated enough to prevent me from having a flower shop per say…

      4. sigmaalgebra

        Okay, I give up; you win. I drafted a response to yesterday’s list of candidate MBA Monday topics but didn’t post. But with what you just wrote, I’ll post now:Candidate MBA Monday topic: What are the main differences and main similarities between (1) a Main Street entrepreneur such as JLM just described and (2) a Web 2.0 startup?And given the topic for today, I will expand: I don’t get the discussions about a $1 billion exit:First, for an entrepreneur, I don’t see the pressing need to aim for an exit that large. Instead I do see some pressing needs: Make money enough to have solid financial security and be able to contribute to family and community.Being discouraged? For this money, there is an obligation to work as smart and hard as necessary for success. Being discouraged is not an option; instead: Each day at least put one foot in front of the other one. If hit a big rock, then think how to go through it, over it, under it, or around it. If don’t see a way to do any of those, then back up a little, think some, and take a slightly different direction. There is no excuse letting being discouraged keep one from such work since it is much easier than shoveling dirt for a living which plenty of people do.Lottery? In this making of money, we should pick a direction that has at least reasonably high chances of at least the minimal level of success. E.g., the entrepreneur JLM described likely had picked such a good direction and was not just throwing money at a lottery. There are many millions of such successful US Main Street businesses, and mostly they were executing good plans with good skills, information, and thinking and hard work and not playing a lottery. If success for a Web 2.0 startup is much less likely than for such a Main Street business, i.e., the Web 2.0 entrepreneur is playing a lottery, then there is something wrong with the planning. Computing and Web 2.0 should be business advantages compared with Main Street and most salaried jobs and not a lottery.E.g., on the street I grew up on, nearly every house on the street was supported by a Main Street entrepreneur: There was a liquor distributing business, a beer salesman and soon a beer distributor for a major fraction of the state, a publisher of a trade magazine, a CPA, a dealer in scrap metal, the husband of the daughter of a tire retailer, a partner in rebuilding auto parts, a dealer in commodities, etc. There was not a lot of turnover: These guys had businesses that were stable for years.Second, even an exit of $1+ billion should not be just from playing a lottery. Instead, in some cases we should be able to plan such an exit, execute the plan well, and, then, with reasonably high probability, achieve the plan and the exit. Hopefully most cases of such exits were from planning and not just lottery tickets.Planning? In the middle ages a big effort was made to move a monolith a few hundred feet in Rome. Big crowds turned out. There were lots of workers, ropes, wheels, horses, etc. Big effort. Successful. But more amazing was how the monolith got there in the first place: It had been cut as a single piece of rock from solid rock in the headwaters of the Nile, moved to Rome, and erected in its place by Caligula’s slaves. So, those slaves were able to plan such a project and execute it according to their plan.More recently we plan tall buildings, long bridges, big ocean going ships, hydroelectric facilities, nuclear power stations, spacecraft, platforms in mile of water to drill through two miles of bedrock, various satellites, various military projects, etc. and execute the plans successfully with high probability.Net, in Web 2.0, we should be able to plan, and in some cases plan for a $1+ billion exit, and not just play the lottery.Note: That Web 2.0 startups might look like lottery tickets to an LP does not mean that they have to look that way to a well informed CEO or a VC funding him. Or the efficient market hypothesis might look good in the business school in Chicago but doesn’t look very good in James Simons’s operation on Long Island! Or, for a violinist to play the Bach ‘Chaconne’ well may look like a lottery ticket to many people but not to Heifetz, Szeryng, Milstein, or Menuhin.

      5. JaredMermey

        “I always remark to my wife that this little business provides the living for X number of people.”Hiring someone was the single greatest feeling I’ve ever had.¬†

        1. Mz

          Oh yeah – i cant get enough of it! ūüôā

      6. LE

        This lesson is what is missed by politicians today — help small businesses thrive and they will create jobs in staggering numbers.OTOH the economy is not infinite unless you can figure out a way to get money from another country by export. I mean a dollar spent at a new restaurant is a dollar coming from an old restaurant. That said there are things that are always in short supply. Try to find a good handyman for some minor repair. ¬†Keep in mind that part of the unemployment issues also stem from automation and productivity gains and the inability of labor to be re-deployed and retrained. Although every now and then the nightly news shows some random place where it’s been done.

        1. JLM

          I agree with you with one caveat — by not fully funding the SBA Loan Guaranty Program, as a discrete example, we are nowhere near the point of growth feeding on itself.In a growing economy — not booming, just growing — the wealth created will create an increasing demand for services across the continuum.A family that eats out twice per week may now eat out three times per week creating an increased demand for restaurant services that is real and tangible. ¬†This is NOT simply a displaced restaurant expenditure, it is new and vibrant demand.A rising tide floats all boats.An upper middle class family might have someone to cut their grass but when mired in poverty could not afford to do it.That is why sound fiscal and economic policy cannot make the creation of wealth an enemy of the citizenry. ¬†This is why the “make war on the top 1%” is just such utter ill informed nonsense.Don’t make war on folks who know how to and have the capital to create jobs. ¬†It is stupid.It is this upward movement that creates an increasing level of labor demand which translates to jobs.

          1. LE

            I know. It’s sick. But Potus thinks it’s only about paying one’s “fair share”.¬† His Harvard education was made possible no doubt by an endowment funded by rich benefactors using charitable deductions to save on taxes.http://www.youtube.com/watchttp://www.youtube.com/watc

      7. Dave Pinsen

        I generally agree with you, but I don’t think you can build a booming economy on low-end service sector jobs. I have all the respect in the world for entrepreneurs who start and run these businesses, and any job is better than no job, but it’s going to take more than those kinds of jobs to get our economy where it needs to go. A quick anecdote related to this:A few years ago, I stopped into a specialty casual restaurant in NYC. There was an older woman siting there drinking coffee, and she volunteered that she was the mother of one of the entrepreneurs behind the counter. She gave me the whole story about how her daughter and son-in-law ditched their careers in different fields to start the restaurant.Flash forward a few years. The restaurant has become successful and spawned a couple more locations. The owners no longer work behind the counter. Last week, my sister (a nurse) was in the Bronx teaching a woman how to inject her kid with a certain medicine. The apartment was squalid. She asked the woman for her Medicaid card afterwards. She said her “baby daddy” had it, and he was about to come home from work. Turns out he works at that specialty restaurant. The invisible guy in the restaurant’s kitchen made visible. I’ll have to count the number of employees if I go there again.

        1. JLM

          I agree with you as it relates to a booming economy but we don’t need a booming economy, we just need a growing economy.Many of the folks who are unemployed today — meaning you and I are supporting them — can only handle a low-end service sector job.This is why we were so short sighted as a Nation allowing such jobs to be exported under the gibberish of a global economy.

      8. Anne Libby

        Back in the 90s, maybe when my grandma died, my dad found his grandfather’s business card. The Victorian-era card bore a photo of some of his father’s siblings. Dad thought it was unique that his grandfather had used a photo of his family to market his business — family lore has him as a bit of a jack-of-all trades, including piano tuner.My first thought was, “So, I really come from entrepreneurial stock!” (Haha.) When I reflected, it was the first time I considered the entrepreneurship that’s in the American DNA. (I wasn’t quite so special…)I’ve got to ask my dad to scan that card for me. I think about it often.

    2. fredwilson

      Great comment

    3. jason wright

      FB is now less about innovation, having become an entity principally serving the needs of GS and also some of its clients.  

      1. matthughes

        If I’m not mistaken, Morgan Stanley is the shot caller on this one…

  11. Tom Labus

    But people always believe they’re the one who’s going to win that huge “lottery” no matter the odds.Maybe it’s good to have a little Don Quixote in us so we set out to unchartered territory.

    1. bsoist

      “Maybe it’s good to have a little Don Quixote in us”I could not agree more!

  12. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

    The way I think about it is that I’m playing a long game. I’m 25, which means I have 50 years of career ahead of me. I’m smart, more importantly I’m stubborn, and I learn new things every day. That brings my odds of realizing a billion dollars in shareholder value much closer to something realistic. It will most likely be over 10-15 years, not 2. And that process may start soon, or it may start in many years. But that’s fine. Great, even. I don’t want a billion dollar check. I do want one day to build a company where that I’ll be proud to tell my grandchildren about, and will still be in business.¬†

    1. Robert Thuston


    2. Cam MacRae

      I originally wrote you a long response, but it turned out more catharsis for me than value for you.¬†Instead I’d just like to wish you every success.¬†I wish I was half as clever as you at your age.

      1. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

        Thanks! Very kind. Hope the long response was helpful.

        1. Cam MacRae

          Anytime.It was something of a cautionary tale. Here is an abridged version:When I was a little younger than you a very disruptive product I was working on at a larger company got spun off into it’s own startup.¬†It was quite edifying to be one of 5 or so guys in a shitty office above a warehouse in an industrial park, pushing as hard as possible – and then a little harder – to make a mark on the world. And boy was it a lot of fun. It was also stressful, heartbreaking, draining – both physically and emotionally, and if you’d ever aspired to a corporate career the opportunity cost was quite high. But did I mention it was fun?! I suspect nearly all of this community knows exactly what I’m talking about here.By the time I left, some 12 years later, that little startup had a market cap well in excess of a billion dollars. And I wasn’t having any fun at all. Hadn’t for years.My point, I guess, was that as more money was involved the less fun I had. Consequently I spent way too much time trying to claw my way back to the “good old days”. That helps precisely no one.My dear friend, whose big idea became said company, is still CEO today. Without a word of a lie he’s as passionate and excited to be there as he was on the very first day.If you’re going to grind out a billion dollar company over 10-15 years be like my friend.Actually, just be like my friend.

    3. ShanaC

      I realized that about myself recently, the only difference is I also have a large measure of impatience associated with me – makes me very passionate on one hand, on the other it means that going through that process drives me up the wall.You’re lucky to be missing that piece from your life ūüôā

      1. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

        Ha. I’m also very impatient–I have to force myself to be patient constantly.

  13. William Mougayar

    You keep pouring cold water on bubble symptoms, over exuberance and unrealistic thinking. That’s GOOD. Thanks.

    1. John Best

      The best counter argument for hyperbole is rational fact and first hand experience. ūüôā

  14. John Best

    The bottom line for me is I want to change things. I’m not sure I can change *the world*, but I’d like to think I can contribute to making things better. For me, being able to make those changes is the primary. Becoming as rich as Croesus / dreams of avarice are way down the list past providing enough of an income to survive. I’m under no illusions about chances to break the bank. Sure, the startup-envy is maddening, and I don’t doubt that there are those in it for the money (even those that succeed in that, look at the Samwers and their creation model) but the gut punches *must* be worth it. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

    1. William Mougayar

      Equating “Change the world” with startups is a recipe for hype and illusions. You don’t create a startup to change the world. You create a startup to get users/customers to use some product or service your build. The rest is a consequence of the former. And the results widely vary from failures to something.

      1. John Best

        Yep. Ditto calling yourself a visionary. History judges that, not you.

  15. $3236

    People greatly underestimate the value of working for themselves.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Hackman-Oldham theory of motivation in your sentence.

    2. fredwilson

      I doubt you do steve

    3. bsoist

      You got that right! 

  16. DanielHorowitz

    Damn. Once¬†@jerrycolonna:disqus¬†has spoken, there really isn’t much left to say ūüôā¬†Keep creating value and don’t worry about what happens to other people.¬†Don’t really want to get into money, but most successful startups never take VC money, aren’t in Techcrunch, and aren’t worth a billion dollars. But, they are still successful in creating massive amounts of value. Where do all our jobs come from? Startups.¬†

    1. fredwilson

      but we kept going anyway

      1. DanielHorowitz

        Yes, You’ve got a great community here Fred. Lots of wisdom from many good people.I guess too many of us think money is the way to keep score. But, if you get stuck in this trap, you will never be a winner in the game of life.OT: Excited to see Knicks with Jared Jeffries at PF. I think they are better without Amare.

        1. fredwilson

          what exactly did amare do to hurt his hand?

          1. DanielHorowitz

            He punched a fire extinguisher enclosed in glass. (Punching glass = really bad idea.)

          2. fredwilson

            oy. the fourth quarter last night was awful. i am going on sunday. i went to last year’s game four too. i hope the result isn’t another sweep.

          3. DanielHorowitz

            Yeah, things seemed good for a while…then got bad really fast. I guess Knicks offense just isn’t good enough, Heat D too good (some combination) Knicks were passing, but still a lot of 1 on 1, bad shots. Have fun at the game. Some playoffs better than no playoffs ūüôā

  17. panterosa,

    When I was a teenager I asked my dad, who went to Harvard at 15, to define success. His reply was “you are successful when the field you’re in can no longer be discussed without your contribution to it”.¬†That has been my gold standard ever since, and I’m glad it had no monetary attachments or exit metrics. I wonder if perhaps my goal looks like lottery odds, but I’m still determined to change my field. I hope I have enough money to get there, living well enough on the way to nourish my family and my quest.

    1. Tom Labus

      So good!

    2. fredwilson

      Thats great advice

      1. panterosa,

        To do something so original (his measure of apex value) and disruptive (where his philosophy meets yours) has been my quest. The disruption part is what keeps me on AVC every day. That, and the passion that is shared here.My father died when I was 16, so my job is doubly hard. My work must ripple in the sky above, and shine brightly enough for him to see that from the beyond. There is no harder thing than to want to show your parent this labor of love when they are no longer there Рhe was my mentor as much as my father. I cry as I write this, it means so much to me. I want, I need, to convert the wisdom and intelligence he imparted to me into a wise, intelligent, original way of learning to repay my gratitude. I want to share that with many people, especially children. And I want to show PantherKitty how pouring the love for others into passion for your work can be so rewarding for all involved, and so empowering.

        1. William Mougayar

          “My work must ripple in the sky above, and shine brightly enough for him to see that from the beyond.”¬†That is such a great way to say this. Nicely said.

    3. William Mougayar

      That’s a perfect definition and very inspirational.¬†

    4. Robert Holtz

      I love that definition,¬†@panterosa:disqus¬†My dad had something similar to impart. ¬†He said, “Aspire for greatness. Don’t aim for mediocre.” ¬†That too was non-monetary and it related more to MY effort than any outcome. ¬†It was about my OWN commitment not about what I might gain from applying it.He elaborated by saying, “Even if you’re a bank robber, be a GREAT bank robber.” ¬†He had a variant on that which was “Even if you’re a grocery clerk, be a GREAT grocery clerk.” ¬†It has always affected my thinking and guided my actions to try and contribute to my field and help to make a difference in whatever way I can.My add-on to that is to say that for me personally success is knowing that you are truly good at your work… whatever it is… painting, accounting, web development, venture capital, parenting… it is universal. ¬†Success is knowing you’re good at what you do.Money, fame, power, and other so-called trappings have a way of magically almost magnetically coming your way if you focus on being of-service and being GREAT at what you do. ¬†But it is important that you not let those things replace your definition of success — that’s when they become trappings.Find out what it is you want to do with your life and apply your efforts and energies to become truly great at it. ¬†Your dad gave you a very concrete measure of what “great” meant which is why I like your quote so much.In the late 1980’s, I was just a kid but I saw a movie that literally changed my whole outlook on life… really opened things up. ¬†It was “Dead Poet’s Society” starring Robin Williams. ¬†He had a great quotation from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” that supports what your dad and mine were trying to tell us. ¬†I think the movie quote is better than the literary reference on which its based. ¬†It goes as follows:’We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer: That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?’I tip my hat at you — and by extension, I tip my hat at your dad, to your quest, and to the verse you’ve contributed to this discussion. ¬†Thanks and keep on swinging for the fences.

      1. panterosa,

        My childhood friend was the location scout for Dead Poet’s Society. I’ve only ever seen clips, and she always felt deeply about that film, her first movie job, and urged me to see it. Her dad was a great supporter of mine after mine was gone, and with phrases like “Be where you’re at”. Supporters like him, and my dad, are who cheer you to break the mold, and that support is priceless. I’m glad you connected to the comment.¬†#swingingforthefences !!

        1. Robert Holtz

          That’s kismet that your friend worked on that film. ¬†And the locations are wonderful in it. ¬†The setting in many ways serves as a character of sorts in the story.Especially given your father’s legacy to you, I think you’ll find the movie particularly poignant and meaningful. ¬†Do yourself a favor and check it out:¬†http://itun.es/iVX57YAfter you do, you’ll be referring to your father as “Oh Captain My Captain.” ¬†That line will make sense after you’ve seen the movie. ¬†Thanks again.

          1. panterosa,

            My friend went to school there. It was her turf. Her father worked in theater in many roles, scenic, writing, her mother a fashion editor, so she saw how to see the story. She is a film editor now.I will queue up the movie. Will take me back to my boarding school days.Thanks for the link.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        My mother would say, “I don’t care if you are a ditch digger as long as you are the best ditch digger you can be.”I never really believed she would be happy with me being a ditch digger, but the lesson still stuck.Inspiring comment, Robert.

  18. JLM

    Why do we do anything? ¬†Who really knows?This I know —When I am alone in my own head with my hopes, dreams, fears and insecurities wrestling — three falls to each and then the winner and if I don’t like the winner, then a rematch — I cannot remember anything more joyous than floating in the ocean where the water is way over my head or body surfing.¬†The feel of the salt and sun on my skin is the same whether I am broke or flush.I know, I have been both.Do you think Bill Gates feels better than me? ¬†I don’t think so. ¬†It is not possible. ¬†Is there more joy available?In a week, I will watch my beautiful Perfect Daughter graduate from college. ¬†She is smarter than me. ¬†More sensitive than me. ¬†More worldly than me. ¬†More clever by twice. ¬†I was only her enabler.I am waiting to see what she accomplishes because it is going to be way more than I ever imagined and I have a wild, untamed imagination.When I think about the accumulated wisdom of the AVC.com salon and its unquenched energy, I smile. ¬†It is rueful smile as I see the hard edge of genius, the light of brilliance and the warmth of accomplishment.But I also see the impatience of both youthful exuberance and the insanity of entrepreneurship.Money and stuff is stupid. ¬†I hate stupid. ¬†I hate stupid more than anything else I have ever encountered on that side of the ledger. ¬†It is a barter which does not involve your soul.The currency with which you are really paid is your measure against yourself. ¬†I jumped out of airplanes because I wondered if I could do it. ¬†I could.I started businesses to see if I could do it. ¬†I could.Don’t let life buy you with lucre. ¬†Worse yet, don’t let it rent you.Trade for more dear stuff — the satisfaction of having plotted and followed your own course, the thrill of having walked the high wire of life with no safety net, the mutual respect of good people, the love of a good mate and a full draught — not a shot glass — of all that life offers.Go bite the ass off a bear every day of your life and then tell me you can keep score only with money.If the gods favor you — as they will, my friends, I promise — and you get to the Pay Window, do good works with your money. ¬†Money is only useful for good works. ¬†How many freakin’ cheeseburgers can you really eat?Don’t be afraid to be kind to yourself, you will deserve it.In the end, you will be richer for it. ¬†I know.

    1. William Mougayar

      Pearls of wisdom JLM. 

    2. Brad Lindenberg


    3. Rohan

      Well played! ;-):-) Thanks JLM. Nice, as always.

    4. panterosa,

      “The currency with which you are really paid is your measure against yourself.” I’m not sure I saw it as currency so much.Thinking of Jerry Colonna’s quote above to stay in your own lane reminds me of why I swim – to meet my own potential, as if that potential was an alter ego who shadowed me like Peter Pan’s shadow. The magic is that when you meet your potential that shadow gets ironed to your soul. You never forget that. You take real pride in that work.You really feel it when you are with people who move in this ethereal space of defining dreams and living them. They do have some pixie dust you feel when near. It’s how you know dreams are magical in their power to inspire, and also very real things one can achieve and iron to one’s soul.

      1. JLM

        We are saying the same thing, you just said it better.Well played!

    5. Susan Wilson

      BRILLIANT!  PLEASE write a Manifesto NOW b/c ur clearly in the zone!  

    6. JamesHRH

      True, but money & stuff shouldn’t just go to the stupid.They are fun & the noble should have some fun too!

      1. JLM

        Your view is exactly what I mean — use the money, don’t let the money use you.Some time ago I was in a fancy restaurant with my wife. ¬†We had a great meal and I had known the owner for decades.I saw a young Marine and his girl eating a couple of tables away. ¬†Think small town Texas rock hard movie handsome blonde haired crew cutted stud and his girl as beautiful as Texas bluebonnets in a flowery dress just a bit off the current style.As packaging that frock contained a full blooded Texas high school cheerleader just a bit awed by the big city but gamely mixing with the beautiful people. ¬†And her fellow was just home from war and belonged only to her. ¬†It was poignant.I could read his medals and knew he had seen action, had been decorated for bravery and was freshly home from war.I couldn’t take my eyes off them. ¬†It was looking at real life dead in the eyes — not New York Times life but real life where living and dying is real.My wife and I left the restaurant and she stepped outside to summon our car from the valet and I lingered ostensibly to say good bye to the owner.I slipped him some cash and and told the proprietor that the young Marine and his gal were now my guest. ¬†It was $200.The proprietor smiled and looked me in the eye and thanked me.When I got into the car and my wife asked me what had taken so long, I hesitated to respond.She laughed and said I know exactly what took you so long. ¬†You paid for that Marine’s dinner, didn’t you?I didn’t answer because if I had tried I would have broken into tears. ¬†Not because I am a sensitive guy but because in that tableau I saw my own life reflecting back.And, that, my friend is how the fuck you use money.You make it celebrate life and you make it dance to your own memories and you pass it along.Later I was back in that same restaurant and saw the proprietor and he said that the young Marine had proposed marriage and his girl had accepted.Is this a great life or what?

        1. Mike

          I haven’t commented in awhile (busy building stuff) but this should seriously be a blog post by itself.Inspirational.

        2. Neil Braithwaite

           I frequent this blog but rarely feel my input will add anything of substance to the dialog. However, JLM has clearly defined what separates us from all other creatures Рour capacity for love. A gift from God that can never be clearly defined but somehow always be recognized. Hard to find and even harder to embrace, yet always within our grasp. You have caught it JLM. You have marched off the map and refuse to send for new orders. Keep marching on and never look back.

        3. JamesHRH

          Well played ;-)The ad agency that does Dos Equis World’s Most Interesting Man has you on speed dial, right?

        4. LE

          I saw a young Marine and his girl eating a couple of tables away. ¬†Think small town Texas rock hard movie handsome blonde haired crew cutted stud and his girl as beautiful as Texas bluebonnets in a flowery dress just a bit off the current style.You should write novels! ¬† ¬†The conflict could then with the young marine, strapped for cash, who decides to take his gal out to an expensive restaurant with his weeks pay. And some rich guy offers to pay. What does that do to the self esteem of a manly man like that?¬†Put another way say you are at dinner with your wife helping her with some business problem. And another man walks up and tries to help with something you don’t know. Does that make you feel good or bad? (The answer totally depends on what you feel your strengths are to your mate actually and what you are all about.)

        5. FlavioGomes

          What a great story! paying it forward always makes me feel good and when you think about it, that $200.00 likely produced 100 times its value in the eyes of that couple.  It really is an inexpensive investment with huge karma return in the grand scheme of things. 

          1. Charleypif

            love this story and love anything to do with “paying it forward”. Pay it Forward allows both the receiver and giver to be o.k. with what just happened. It’s not charity anymore when you ask them to pay it forward, you are simply letting them know they will be able to help someone else in the future just as u helped them this time around. ¬†We need more of it, we need to make sure this chain of helping others doesn’t break.

        6. Dale Allyn

          Thank you, Jeff. 

        7. Dave Pinsen

          Classy, Jeff.

        8. matthughes

          Just outstanding – thank you for sharing.

        9. Charleypif

          love this story and love anything to do with “paying it forward”. Pay it Forward allows both the receiver and giver to be o.k. with what just happened. It’s not charity anymore when you ask them to pay it forward, you are simply letting them know they will be able to help someone else in the future just as u helped them this time around. ¬†We need more of it, we need to make sure this chain of helping others doesn’t break.

        10. William Mougayar

          You’re killing it today JLM. Amazing flow of wisdom on life and touching stories.¬†

        11. Drew Meyers

          hearing stories like that makes me want to do more of that kind of gesture. thank you.

        12. fredwilson

          your wife is on to you. exactly as it should be. great story. you are full of them.

    7. fredwilson

      I love this comment as many others will.But mostly i am inspired by your love of life and your daughter. I have two myself. I know the feeling.

      1. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

        Amen to that. My daughter is a little ways off from graduating college (long enough that I wonder if that concept will be relevant by the time she has to make that choice), but she’s exactly what I think about when I think of my career choices.¬†

      2. Chris Seper

        ¬†In the end, I started my startup for two reasons: my passion for the idea/industry I am in & because I believed it was the best way to help my children. It’s my first startup – and so there is cost. You swap out the time you would spend with your young children that could make them better for a bet that what you will accomplish will provide and inspire them. I hope for the day described in the comment. I still believe entrepreneurship will get us all there faster.

      3. Robert Metcalf

        My first daughter is on her way, slated for arrival on 8/4/2012. I can hardly wait and JLM’s eloquent words have resonated so much with me.Believe it or not, I’m afraid of my “stable”, “good” job. I’m afraid of it getting between me and my family. I’m afraid of its absurd schedule focus and false sense of urgency consuming me and dictating my motions. I feel like I’m being rented, trading my life for money, solving problems I don’t care about.And as JLM has pointed out, life is too short for that. The world’s problems are too big for that. Believe it or not, returning to the hustling startup life feels less risky than my current “stable” job…

        1. fredwilson

          having a little girl is about the most wonderful thing in the world. you are a lucky man.

    8. karen_e

      Last week in Matt Blumberg’s guest post about board members, he included a remark from his team that board members were “awesome” when they used “colorful and unique metaphors.” That’s why JLM’s writing is so appealing. There are always so many interesting metaphors. The takeaway here, fellow students, is keep writing, keep speaking, or keep blogging. The more we practice expressing ourselves, the more interesting we will be to listen to. And that is a very important part of leadership.

      1. fredwilson

        He is the definition of a great board member

        1. Mark Essel

          Having JLM as a board member is the best thing any entrepreneur could hope for.

    9. bsoist

      “Don’t let life buy you with lucre. ¬†Worse yet, don’t let it rent you.”Words of wisdom. Thank you!

    10. ShanaC

      The hardest thing you can do is plot your own course – most people never do, and most people don’t understand it.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        From my experiences it takes a lot of time and patience…

    11. andyswan

      This is up there with Francisco’s speech on money. ¬†Really great writing JLM.

      1. fredwilson

        do you have a link to Francisco’s speech? i would like to read it.

          1. JLM

            It really is the national anthem of capitalism. I love reading those passages like I love Kipling. It is inspirational every time I read it.It is good to know that someone else out there thinks so also.To the few!

          2. FlavioGomes

            That was one of the most inspiring things I’ve read in a very long time. Thanks you kindly for sharing that. Atlas Shrugs is on the buy list.

    12. Rich Gordon

      ¬†Thanks for this dose of sanity and wisdom.¬† I am not often moved to comment on someone else’s comment, but this is brilliant.

    13. LIAD

      outstanding dude.

    14. Emily Merkle

      Nicely put.

    15. LE

      Do you think Bill Gates feels better than me? ¬†I don’t think so. ¬†It is not possible. ¬†Is there more joy available?Doesn’t apply to Bill in particular but many older entrepreneurs resist selling their company for one good reason I’m convinced. If they sell they have a bunch of money which they can buy more material goods, or vacation homes or jets which they may or may not need. If they stay at their company they can continue to get smoke blown up the you know what every day. ¬†Of course they could also sell the company and then use some of that money for charity purposes or to fund others in which case they can also get plenty of smoke as well. The smoke factor is huge. ¬†Money buys you plenty of it and plenty of friends as well.I bought a small vacation condo and boat when I was younger. And viola all these people came out of the woodwork who I had little contact with. People would literally call up out of nowhere and ask what we were doing on the weekend. It totally amazed me. I can’t even begin to imagine what happens to people with the big money.

      1. JLM

        They get unlisted numbers?

        1. Guest

          And they can afford to quit Facebook, at least if they aren’t being acquired by it. ¬†

    16. EmilSt

      Beautiful! This is why I love AVC.

    17. FlavioGomes

       Love it

    18. Denim Smith

      What a beauty, JLM.¬† In a world [industry] built at light speed your writing and perspectives are the flowers to which we need to stop and smell.How you speak about your daughter is how I envision speaking about my 2 year old daughter across time.¬† I’m sure she is as proud of you as you are of her, I believe that’s how these things tend to work.¬†Do you keep a journal/ diary with your thoughts, experiences, etc?Fred, On your ‘MBA Monday’s where to go next’ request it would be great to hear stories, lessons, experiences in life and business from you and guests that are time agnostic.¬† Although it won‚Äôt be step-by-step instructions, I am sure there are brilliant case studies from your long history at the bleeding edge.If you‚Äôre so inclined to take this on, I formally nominate JLM for a guest-post.

    19. Ela Madej

      you are a genius @JLM, and I mean not the wisdom but how you can communicate it. AVC community is blessed to have you.

    20. Mark Essel

      “Worse yet, don’t let it rent you”Damn JLM, you get right to the heart of it. Recently I’ve been thinking about the defining influencers and moments of my life. And they all feel so close in time, yet some are decades past. When I next think about unbounded Freedom, I’ll envision your ocean. In an instant, we’ll all be swallowed up by the sea of time.Every metric I can dream up feels empty compared to the warmth of the sun on my face after a good walk, or a hearty laugh with friends, or a bear hug from a loved one.

    21. pointsnfigures

      Nice. The world I came from, trading, kept score with money. It wasn’t our currency, but like a scoreboard for a game. That’s why traders don’t respect money as much.

    22. Irving Fain

      Such an inspiring and insightful comment. It can be challenging on a day to day basis to keep these thoughts in your head, but as I learned when I walked from the world of finance to travel the world for a year, life is about experiences and certainly not expensive things….there’s a world out there waiting to be explored!

    23. reece

      love it JLM. couldn’t agree more

    24. redoak

      Well said

    25. Donna Brewington White

      The romance of life is not lost on you, JLM.

  19. Brad Lindenberg

    I think Entreprenuers are born as Entreprenuers… It’s a destiny… They have the gift to be able to create, employ, and help others reach their own potential… But its a double edge sword if you have the wrong expectations. The trick is to not have expectations, then everything becomes upside and you end up suprising yourself if things go well….When you realize it’s about the journey, the frustration ends and it becomes a lot more fun and enjoyable because you stop comparing yourself to others and run your own race. If you hit the jackpot all the better, but it’s the process of creating stuff and turning ideas into real things and building friendships and relationships and having a good time along the way that really matters.Tech Crunch clouds this way of thinking.

    1. JLM

      It is an incurable sickness but it is not terminal.  Stay on your meds and it will be OK.

      1. Brad Lindenberg

        You get it ūüôā

    2. Adrian Sanders

      Agreed. It’s not for love or money. It just is the way we operate.

      1. Brad Lindenberg

        Like color of your skin… It’s just the way we are.

  20. pointsnfigures

    Finding the same for investors. ¬†But if you don’t buy a ticket, you can’t win.

  21. Esayas Gebremedhin

    You have wonderfully described what was going through my mind recently (as ever). I see a lot startups coming up with ideas and executing them because they are motivated by the deals ¬†they see from popular startups. When I innocently look at the “why not me” phenomenon it looks like that the market exists more and more between startups and investors and real users are being forgotten so often. Think value and not money and you will end up with golden teeth. Cheese!

  22. Joe Yevoli

    This post makes me think of what my aunt always would tell me growing up – “Always for love, never for money.”

    1. fredwilson

      Words to live by

  23. Luke Chamberlin

    The same is true with funding round announcements. Bootstrapping entrepreneurs die a little inside each time some ivy league grads raise $3M to start a mobile photo sharing site.

  24. markslater

    You have to be shooting for a big idea. Make sure if you  are talking to a VC Рthe market opportunity you are articulating is in the billions. 

  25. kidmercury

    this post contains high doses of harsh truth. that is how i prefer things.¬†startups are very poor decisions by any rational measure of risk/reward. it is basically the same odds as a lottery ticket but much more expensive. so it is like a lottery ticket that costs your life. only way it works is if you can delude yourself into thinking the cost is worthwhile, or that you are getting a great deal to get paid what you would have done for free.¬†also, for those suffering from envy, i always recommend focusing on all the bad news in the world. as tough as it is that you and your dinky camera app didn’t sell for 1 billion, i think it’s a tad tougher for the 20% of the world without reliable electricity. the antidote to envy is gratitude……

    1. fredwilson


    2. bsoist

      “like a lotter ticket that costs your life” – wow!I too, am very much in favor of the hard truth. I have this conversation with high school basketball players all the time about their odds of making it to the NBA.¬†And thanks for putting it in perspective. I’m thankful every day for what I have. I have everything most people wish they had – the love of my life and two brilliant, well-rounded, talented, compassionate children.¬†Even when I was still renting out my life, I was thankful for that.For anyone who needs that perspective, I highly recommend a trip to Haiti or a similar place. I remember take cold showers in the dark to the beat of voodoo drums when I was there last, and then wandering through villages meeting with families who lived in places I couldn’t have possible imagined until I saw them. That will give you some perspective.

    3. LE

      “the same odds as a lottery ticket but much more expensive”But in exchange for time, assuming you have it, you learn something that can be applied elsewhere in life. That said it would depend on the particular person and the circumstances of what their opportunity and hard costs would be to do the startup.

    4. LE

      as tough as it is that you and your dinky camera app didn’t sell for 1 billion, i think it’s a tad tougher for the 20% of the world without reliable electricity.That thinking doesn’t work. It’s like telling someone to not be upset because they have diabetes it could be cancer! Or not be upset with prostate cancer it could be lung or pancreatic. Etc. If it were only that easy.

      1. kidmercury

        i think it is that easy. it’s not having what you want…..it’s wanting what you have……

      2. AgeOfSophizm

        LE – I don’t think the analogy quite works. ¬†I believe kid is referring to the majority of middle class folks in western, developed countries without life ending illnesses. ¬†I can tell you from personal experience – upon my travels to SE Asia (namely Cambodia), I am no longer envious of the superfluous desires that most people in the West have. ¬†I no longer need the second home, the nice car, etc… ¬†I’m happy with what I have – ¬†a relatively superb standard of living and great friends/family.

        1. LE

          Well that’s you and you said “upon my travels to SE Asia (namely Cambodia), I am no longer envious of the superfluous desires that most people is the West have”. (My emphasis).The majority of middle class people in western countries are not going to travel to the third world and come in contact with suffering and be changed as you have been changed. ¬†Kid specifically said “i always recommend focusing on all the bad news in the world.”. My point is that type of thought processing, well, from what I’ve seen, doesn’t work. ¬†Another example are those scary crash videos they used to show in drivers ed or videos of what happens if you smoke.Of course if you see something in person, something you experience, or have a connection to (a friend or relative) that is much different than something you see on TV or in Film, read about etc. ¬†People who have come in direct contact with tragedy – I’ve seen many cases where they change their behavior.¬†My point was simply you cannot easily change feelings long term with words or pictures or “just do it”. (Brainwashing sometimes works this way though..)

    5. AgeOfSophizm

      I’m always thinking that a great prescription for a psychologist to give their patients is a few weeks in an impoverished area. ¬†Since most mental diseases stem from an outsized ego and envy/desire, spending time in the favelas of Rio or the Cambodian countryside can take one’s ego down a couple notches in a jiffy.

      1. JLM

        I am going to start a business called Trail Park Summer Camp where when folks are thinking highly of themselves they can lighten their load and develop some gratitude and humility.

    6. matthughes

      …the antidote to envy is gratitude…Beautiful.

    7. Robert Holtz

      Perspective.  You rock @kidmercury:disqus.^^

      1. fredwilson

        he does rock

    8. Donna Brewington White

      Me too, Kid. I like harsh truth too.I mean, I hate it, but I love it.I also like this comment.Interesting thought about envy and gratitude… I am fortunate that I rarely feel envy — I don’t take credit for that or for my optimism….it’s part of my natural makeup…but I do notice that for me gratitude and joy go hand in hand. I find that gratitude is a great antidote to feelings of self-pity or despair. Or even malaise.

  26. schultzmj

    I saw this vividly in the first company I worked for out of school.¬† It was a small software company started by 3 great founders who were 110% focused on building the business.¬† About 5 years in, one of the founders (who was significantly older) was ready to move on so a sale of his portion of the company was arranged that also allowed the other 2 founders to take some money off the table.The focus of the company changed from that point forward.¬† You could see the founders were looking at the final payday to come and not the day to day business….and performance suffered. ¬†¬† They ultimately sold the business 2 years later but more because they had to, not because they achieved what they wanted.

  27. RichardF


    1. ShanaC


    2. Donna Brewington White

      Oh, Richard. I needed this.Did you see the Google Nigeria website? http://www.nigeriagoogle.com/You have to proceed from the homepage to get the full import.

  28. PhilipSugar

    When money is your god and your scorecard happiness cannot be found.Yes being poor sucks. ¬†But past that as JLM says the sun hits your face the same way.Anytime I hear anybody say I am going to tolerate this (long hours, sucky boss, crappy job, etc) because I think at the end I can make a ton of money I think wow it must suck not to enjoy it and if it doesn’t happen you get crushed.

    1. LE

      “I am going to tolerate this”The grass is greener must be hard coded and necessary for the species to survive which is why it probably exists.¬†

  29. Skinner Layne

    Entrepreneurs must view themselves as writing a $1 billion check to their customers rather than the other way around. What we create for them, in saved time, increased enjoyment, new opportunities is what justifies the profit motive. The problem with the big exits is that they distort this picture. The big exits are speculative, rather than evaluative, and so fools rush in to play the game and that is what generates the tremendous amount of noise discussed here and on Brad Feld’s blog recently.¬†We should put one thing in perspective when we talk about “wealth creation” either for ourselves or others. The people writing in this forum are immeasurably wealthier than John D. Rockefeller. We perhaps do not have the security of his massive fortune, but even that pales in comparison to what we do have access to today that he didn’t: inexpensive global travel, instant communication, machines that do work that thousands of people and animals used to do, resource efficiency that would have made him sick, the near obliteration of the risk of dying from infectious disease, average life expectancy 50% higher than when he was alive, and so on.¬†All of these benefits came to us through entrepreneurs, many of whom are dead and gone, and yet the wealth they created for all of us, and our ability to stand on their shoulders to innovate further–this should be our perspective when valuing what we do. If we don’t think we are contributing to that kind of wealth, we should rethink the products and services we are building.

    1. John Best

      Well said.

  30. Aaron Klein

    I think that lesson applies to everything in life. If you’re doing something strictly for the money, the quality and outcome of your work is always going to be less than optimal.I am beyond lucky that I get to get up every morning and do a job I love with a top notch team that I deeply respect, doing work that is making a really positive change in the world.Having done both things…this is vastly superior.

    1. Tom Labus

      Go for it!

  31. Cindy Gallop

    ‘Why not me?’ Because you didn’t have these connections?¬†http://www.nytimes.com/2012…

    1. fredwilson

      Thats not true. I have those same connections and it really doesnt work that way. That was fear you saw. Not quid pro quo.

      1. Skinner Layne

        Agreed,¬†@fredwilson:disqus¬†¬†People who have never “done finance” often think, perhaps even justifiably so, that deals are done based on connections and mutual back-scratching, but professional investors who have to report to LPs rarely have the luxury of engaging in such cronyism. The principal consideration is the return and staying out of securities investigations. I refuse to believe that people as smart as Peter Thiel, Marc Andreeson, et al would put their fingerprints on such a deal to make a quick buck for their buddies.

      2. ShanaC

        So what causes these sorts of events to happen….

    2. jason wright

      Every so often the planets align, and depending on which planet you’re on you’re either in bright sunshine or dark shadow.Which planet are you on?¬†

  32. JamesHRH

    Maselow’s Hierarchy of Needs.Survive. Belong. Be.If a billion dollars is what you need to be, you have the wrong goal, IMO.

    1. Skinner Layne

      This advice would also save the world from the thousands of derivative copy-cat start-ups that seem to plague us and direct resources from real innovation.

      1. JamesHRH

        If that’s what you want to be, then that’s what you want to be.It is important not to overlook the powerful drivers of surviving & belonging. People do what they need to do and you can’ fault them for it.@JLM:disqus¬†¬†is a special breed of cat – these statements don’t apply to him, obviously.

        1. Skinner Layne

          That’s fair enough, but I think we are capable of wanting to want better, and we should encourage each other as such. If we are a lame copy-catter, why shouldn’t we be encouraged by our peers to put our talents to better use?

          1. JamesHRH

            Agreed – but you have to accept people’s choices & deal with them.

  33. Richard

    If x is $ROI, then The E(x) is a something that shouldnt be ignored, but just make sure you have a shot at that Fat Tail. (the one on the right that is) .  Imagine also having a love  affair with graduate level science, engineering etc. do this for the $ and youll quickly learn about the myths of education as an investment too. 

  34. Laura Yecies

    This reminds me of a quote from my 11th grade English teacher – it’s not the pursuit of happiness but the happiness of pursuitThere needs to be happiness/enjoyment in the startup work itself not happiness only with a billion dollar outcome.Yes, startups are hard, really hard, but my work in a startup is also really enjoyable – in fact more enjoyable then any work I’ve done previously. A big outcome would be great but you can’t focus on that in the day-to-day work, you need to focus on the product and company goal – hopefully the great outcome will follow.

  35. Sharon

    I think a better question is: ” WHY ME?” As you said Fred, the life of an entrepreneur is brutal. There are many possible outcomes. ¬†A guaranteed positive financial return in not one of them. Therefore, before one takes the plunge– its important to do your own due diligence on yourself. ¬†e.g What are the attributes of a successful entrepreneur, and do I honestly have them. ¬†Can I live with the precariousness that comes from building something new? ¬†can I truly manage the life-style I want— (whatever that is for you) with the current salary– for quite a few years? Its nice to dream when you can pay the mortgage. ¬†Dreams can become nightmares when you can’t. ¬†What is my risk tolerance… and am I the kind of person who sees the glass half full?? Because this outlook is critical for your sanity and those around you. ¬†Be honest with yourself. Its not for everyone.¬†

  36. ErikSchwartz

    Is the number of sustainably billion dollar VC companies created per year as high as in the tens?¬†There may be 10 per year that hit a billion in value, but sustain to sustain that value you need more than a bidding war.For me you’re in this because the problems you’re trying to solve piss you off so much you have no choice.

  37. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Where’s My Billion Dollar Check (cheque)?I don’t really care.¬†A check/cheque – of any value – would make a nice change, lol ūüėČ

  38. ShanaC

    I think this goes with some problems of alignment. ¬†Not so long ago betabeat wrote an article about depression among founders made worse by their lack of ability to say “this day/week my startup is a nightmare” (I’m surprised it appeared as late as it did). ¬†Those self same issues of depression are basically the same ones that drive the money attitude.You’ll be a lot happier if you build things because they make you joyful. And creating an alignment with the reward of Joy is not something I see discussed so often, so thank you for starting that conversation.

    1. LE

      You’ll be a lot happier if you build things because they make you joyful.All that is fine but it is really hard to survive without a basic level of income. ¬†Right now all over NYC and all over the country there are people running businesses making a decent living and leading a pretty good lifestyle. ¬†When people pay you money for a service you provide or a product you sell to them it provides a positive emotion that makes you feel good because you made it happen.¬†A friend that I helped did http://www.citikitty.com – cat toilet training. When she was on Shark Tank Kevin O’Leary thought it was digusting and said if I remember “I hate cats”. To which she replied “but you love money”. (She was funded by¬†Kevin Harrington on the show).¬†There is an annoying ad pre-roll:http://www.movieweb.com/tv/…She was doing this out of her house, in the basement with three young kids before she was on shark tank. And she was making a really nice income.¬†

  39. andyswan

    My grandpa Rock left his kids a lot of money, land, mineral rights…etc.I got his hat. ¬†The one he wore when we walked through the fields together. ¬† The one he wore when we ate at his favorite restaurant, KFC buffet. ¬†The one he wore while playing washers against me at the family reunion.It is john-deere green with three big white letters ironed onto it.CEO

    1. JLM

      Stronger than an acre of garlic — does it fit?I bet it does.

      1. andyswan

        I’ll never know. It’s his ūüôā

  40. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Beautiful.¬†Ironically, I just Tweet’ed this earlier today…”Only the person who has experienced light and darkness, war and peace, rise and fall, only that person has truly experienced life.” Zweig.

  41. Corie

    Best lesson I’ve ever learned is that you don’t need money to be happy – happiness is a choice. ¬†And opting out of the rat race gives you an amazing amount of power and freedom. ¬†

  42. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Hi Fred – Good piece .To me it is the simple rhetorical question – “Did you do your best?”.Rhetorical because we never can.A sprinter cannot “give his all” in 10 seconds, but recovers fast.A boxer, beaten down too many times suffers irreparable harm.Entrepreneurs must recover fast, often, and be prepared for the long haul.So it is wise that you do it because you want to. – This is why there is no shame in walking away, but respect is due to the survivor. ¬†And it is why we do well to value our lives outside our “sport”. ¬†Then we can see the success of others as victories simply by different measures.So – if you can answer your own rhetoric with – “I tried”, then it is a case of ¬†“per ardua ad astra “, – where the astra are the stars of personal victory – if not monetary gain.

  43. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    coming from a basic scientific research background I can relate to this story. The way good scientist do it is to continue focusing on the big biological question rather than obsessively worry about the return. I firmly believe that working on exciting big projects will eventually lead to high return which might not always be measured in dollar amount. 

  44. reece

    it doesn’t suck. it’s greatit’s good for the ecosystem. it’s good for startups. it’s good for the country¬†yes, it’s bad that some knuckleheads will jump in the game for the wrong reasons and all the hype will distract people from building cool shit and it’ll sting when it just doesn’t seem “fair”…¬†but it also means capitalism is alive and well. it means there’s a chance. it means someone had a vision, executed and succeeded and that’s a beautiful thinglike you said, if you’re in this game for a check, then just GTFO now. you’re here for the wrong reasonsbut if you’re here because you believe in creating value in the world. because you have a vision to share. because you want to build a product, a brand and a company unto itself, then cheer for our new millionaire colleagues and keep hustling

    1. matthughes

      ^2Yes indeed. Success merits applause.

  45. Alan Warms

    Great post, great comments (@JLM:disqus !!) – I think there’s another takeaway from the post, a cautionary takeaway.¬† There is so much angel money going around these days, so many angel funds, so many founders funds.¬† A lot of these angels are doing it for the opportunity to be part of billion dollar outcome, for financial reasons.¬† The harsh reality is if you look at the distribution of outcomes, and if great investors like @fredwilson:disqus see over 10x returns on say 1/3 of all deals generally, the math doesn’t work.¬† And angel investing is essentially buying lottery tickets.If you’re doing it to help build your local startup communities, support your friends, I get it.¬† But to make money? Hard to see how the math works.¬† And people like Ron Conway are different than your average angel, waaay different.

    1. LE

      A lot of these angels are doing it for the opportunity to be part of billion dollar outcome, for financial reasons. ¬†….¬† And angel investing is essentially buying lottery tickets. Ifyou’re doing it to help build your local startup communities, support your friends, I get it.¬† But to make money?I think that there are angels out there who also want to get involved and advise startups they think have potential. For sure there are shotgun angels obviously but there are also angels that know a particular industry and will invest and offer assistance to an entrepreneur with an idea that isn’t far fetched based on their experience. Those angels probably invest more in the idea and less in the team. ¬†In fact I believe this whole “invest in the team” idea is actually a recent phenomena.

  46. JaredMermey

    The man might be crazy (I’m not a doctor…) but Charlie Sheen had it right. It is about “winning.” Where people get it wrong is thinking winning = f(money). To some, maybe…but as many are pointing out, being solely money motivated rarely leads to success in the startup game. The money — as I’m told — is often a byproduct of figuring out how to define success in other ways¬†(perhaps¬†accumulating¬†the most jelly beans?). It has to be as often a startup’s realization of revenues/profits/moneys takes time and hard work — this is when you have to take gut punches like Rocky. If you do startups odds are you’ll get TKO’d…if you lose by decision you have already beat the odds…win a decision consider yourself lucky…and by golly if you win by knockout then you’ve won the lottery. But focus on winning ¬†— not money — and the money will come. In short, you have to have a good chin and a ton of heart.

  47. Nima Elyassi-Rad

    This passage from Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” compliments your post well: “An unbiased appreciation of uncertainty is a cornerstone of rationality‚ÄĒbut it is not what people and organizations want.”

    1. fredwilson

      i think it is one of the roles i can play in the startup world to provide that unbiased appreciation of uncertainty

  48. Nicolas Mottet

    This reminds of me a fascinating TED talk, where Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that we‚Äôll be miserable if we don‚Äôt get what we want. Based on his research, he says that people are really bad at knowing what makes them happy. (!!)A great example is the comparison between Lottery Winners (Are billion-dollar startup founders lottery winners too?) and people who have become paraplegic. It turns out that winning the lottery or loosing the use of your legs have equal impact on happiness.http://www.ted.com/talks/da…NickMedony.com

  49. theschnaz

    During our team standup today I was thinking about startups and how I like working at them. I also thought about the term “do a startup” and how I never say that or think like that.When I hear people say that, I think they’re getting into startups for the wrong reasons. There’s just something about the phrase that grates on me.Your post reminded me of that phrase.

  50. captivion

    If you are passionate and believe in what you are doing, the money will come.¬† You are right, it may not be a billion, but I’d take $500 Million too….

  51. EmilSt

    If I zoom out my life and see it like I’m 80 year old, I know I will cherish This days of my life, when I’m building my startup (and my son turned four yesterday), much more then the days after I get my check. I know that and I’m living them to the fullest. Even if I get the billion dollar check I would still do the same thing I’m doing today. So I see it only as a measure of success. How much I was able and will be able to fix this world.

  52. Slgutterman86

    Hi Fred,Long time reader (first thing I read every morning), first time commenter. ¬†Totally agreed on this post. ¬†My first few years out of school I worked at a startup that ultimately failed. ¬†Had that “punch in the gut” feeling for sure. ¬†Fortunately that experience opened the door to the startup I’m at now, and we are in a much healthier spot than my last company. ¬†However, I’ve learned that nothing is ever guaranteed in the start up game, and patience is not only a virtue, it’s a necessity. ¬†

  53. FlavioGomes

    Money is fun….being continually inspired is happiness.

  54. ceonyc

    I understand that entrepreneurship is not a race but a challenge.I put teamwork and camaraderie before money.I do not whine ‚Äď cubical workers whine.I help my fellow coworkers succeed.I overcome all fears.http://www.thisisgoingtobeb…¬†

  55. Raul Mihali

    Good post and timely too. Sort of like Tylenol for startups, “entreprenol” maybe.

  56. MogulAzam

    I still think the goal is to build something interesting and useful. ¬†Usually trying to solve a real issue or problem on experiences in real life. ¬†Not everything is going to be sized 1B+ and will be more luck involved or required as you go along. ¬†The best part of entrepreneurship is living your own dream not someone else’s. And if you fail and your dream is not big enough, you can keep dreaming new things.Best of Luck!

  57. Peter Beddows

    ¬†I believe, Fred, that your observation that “It must be for more than that. It must be for the love of the game, a passion for what you are bringing to market” is the singular key to real success.As to the potential “for the chance that you will hit paydirt”, surely such a focus must ever be only as a secondary consideration if it warrants any consideration at all simply because unless you are doing what you are doing with a passion to solve an issue that is a pain point for a target audience of any real size, you are never going to be able to sustain your efforts against the almost insurmountable odds of reaching “success” if such “success” is to be measured only by reaching a lottery sized amount in a possible cash-out.To set out to do anything simply because of the intention and expectation of hitting “paydirt” is akin to setting out on a voyage for the wrong reason and with the wrong objective: Doomed to fail.

  58. Steven Kane

    +1I hold it true, whate’er befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most; ‘Tis better to have loved and lostThan never to have loved at all.Alfred Lord Tennyson, “In Memoriam:27,”¬†1850

    1. fredwilson

      poetry makes a thread better. thanks steve.

      1. Steven Kane

        score one for the Bachelor of Fine Arts!

  59. LE

    The run-up to the IPO!!!Zuckerberg‚Äôs Dinners with Girlfriend Help Spur Life-Saving Facebook Toolhttp://abcnews.go.com/blogs…Another MBA Monday’s topic: PR and manipulating the main stream media.Added: The idea is great. The timing of the story and rollout of the idea is priceless.

  60. Martin Eriksson

    If you haven’t seen this already, I highly recommend this sketch note video of¬†Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA about the surprising truth of what motivates us. It’s a great lesson not just introspectively but about how to manage your team.http://www.youtube.com/watc

  61. Innocenti Paola

    You are right Fred though…when you bring ahead your start up with passion hard work respect for your users first you prove traction and then you see people with not enough passion very unclear vision no traction that get funded you REALLY ask yourself what this game is about…I escape from a country where games are never completly clear and came here since I belive that the US is one of the few country that is able to sustain dreams which proove to be worth….but last night I kind of had the doubt that again there were rules still not totaly clear so pls let us all know what the game is really about besides passion hard work and traction of course

  62. hypermark

    Reminds me of the Buddhist axiom that there is pain, awareness of pain, confusion about the pain, and then you die.Confusion, impermanence and suffering are all attributes of being an entrepreneur. You have to appreciate the highs when they come, while not getting too high, and expecting that as the every moment of every day norm.At the same time, you have to recognize that when the lows come, that this tide too shall pass.¬†Self-pity, envy, resentment and loathing are ultimate sources of pain. Those who learn to ride the highs and lows, live to become repeat entrepreneurs. Those who don’t, don’t.

  63. Dave Pinsen

    This question exemplifies an entitlement/bubble mentality.¬† You want a check for $1 billion?¬† Build a solid business that earns ~$100 million per year, or a fast-growing one that earns ~$50 million per year. Expecting an Instagram-like payoff for a money-losing enterprise doesn’t seem realistic (even if it does happen occasionally).VC-backed entrepreneurs are lucky to have the best of both worlds: a salary and a lottery ticket. They should be grateful for that. If they don’t like it, they can always go out on their own and try eating what they kill.

  64. Derek Pappas

    Keep your eye on the ball…

  65. Will Luttrell

    Not every startup has to be a one-in-a-million longshot.Find a specific business need, solve it through tech innovation and hard work, and watch your chances dramatically increase.¬†For every Twitter, there are dozens of solid companies exiting in the 50-200MM range in sectors like ad tech and data analytics. ¬†The founders of these companies generally do quite well, even if they don’t make the Forbes list.

  66. muratcannoyan

    I don’t think it sucks. It’s exciting!¬†Personally, I have never been interested in competing as much as I am in seeing what a group of people committed to an idea can accomplish.¬†The race is with thyself.¬†

  67. Guest

    “You have to love the doing.” ¬†– Howard Roark, The FountainheadI look in the mirror every morning and I see a kid, yes the hair is white, and the skin is wrinkled, but I don’t see that…I see someone who wants to get busy living life.The first thing I do every morning is read AVC. ¬†Honestly, most of the time what is being discussed is like in a foreign language and I have no clue what anyone is talking about. ¬†But I love the enthusiasm, I love the desire to make a difference, and I love the energy.I can honestly say that at 54 I love to associate with people who say, “WHY NOT” and I avoid people who focus on “WHY?”I was told 30 years ago that my life would have many extreme peaks and valleys and it has. ¬†I have had more money than I could ever dream of and at other times I had no idea what I would do to pay the bills.¬†I would love to say that the big pay window is reserved for those with the best ideas or those who work the hardest, but it isn’t. ¬†Sometimes I wonder if I am really any good at anything, especially the last three weeks, as my arm has been in a sling, from packing too many boxes, lifting too many boxes, and working on too many pieces of old equipment.¬†But I know I loved every minute of it….Life with wealth or life with passion? ¬†Give me passion…..Oh, and every morning as I look at the white haired kid in the mirror I wink at him and say, “…lets go kick some ass young fella!”

    1. Tom Labus

      You’re still on fire.That’s all that counts.

    2. fredwilson

      we are so lucky to have you here Carl. there are plenty who can discuss the technology, markets, products. but you bring wisdom and experience and a love of the game.

    3. FlavioGomes

      Ya man!

  68. Matthew Lenhard

    What’s wrong with exiting for ten million or even one million? After Instagram, I think people lost site of the fact that even if you don’t hit the one billion dollar mark you can still be successful and if you are¬†truly¬†passionate about what you do than the monetary aspect won’t even be the most¬†fulfilling¬†part

    1. laurie kalmanson

      or keeping a business going that offers products people like and employs people who are paid well and happy to be there …

  69. matthughes

    It doesn’t matter how much money you have if you don’t know how to use it.The two happiest times in my life have been at different ends of the economic spectrum:When I was the scraping the barrel doing volunteer work in Brazil, I could not have been happier. Lived in somewhat harsh conditions, ate meagerly, watched every last ‘moeda’ but was truly happy.More recently, the money is flowing in (not at a staggering pace but plenty). We are spending wisely. We want for nothing. Bliss.Unfortunately I spent too many years in between wasting money on empty results. It was never so extreme that we went ‘bust’ but it was hollow and unforgiving. A hard lesson.

  70. LE

    And when you’ve been toiling away month after month, year after year, with no pot of gold in sight, it can be hard to watch that billion dollar deal go down. It’s a punch to the gut. It hurts.I was on the ski slopes once with my (at the time new) brother in law and he was wearing dungarees. I asked him “what if you fall” and he replied “the idea is not to fall”.Part of the reason the success rate is so low is that many of the ideas are pie in the sky and only have a slim chance of working. ¬†Instead of picking an idea that is less ambitious with an actual chance of succeeding people pick an idea that has slim potential, and no clear revenue model, believing it will all just work out. Part of this of course is driven by what investors in the startup community wish to invest in. But as I’ve said before there are people who will invest in less ambitious and maybe more meat and potatoes ideas that have a revenue model other than advertising and/or selling to a big fish.

  71. Eric Leebow

    That’s right, I’ve had an idea for over 12 years for a social media site, and recently launched it with a few internal pivots along the way. Haven’t made billions, and when I see other social networks IPO, it only makes you stronger. There’s always someone who is going to come before you, and I never knew that companies in my industry could be worth billions, yet does it motivate entrepreneurs? Yes, but if that were the only motivation, then I wouldn’t be an entrepreneur. ¬†I’d probably be doing something else. ¬†Flashback to your previous post about incumbents and insurgents. ¬†Stop waiting for your check to come, start doing something and finding someone who believes in your dream. ¬†As an investor, you might invest in the next big company to IPO, and as an entrepreneur this should only motivate you to work harder to go towards a goal. ¬†If someone else can do it, yes “why not me” should only be a natural thought. ¬†I’m pretty sure there are a lot of failures, but if some companies would’ve given up after the 900th day, they wouldn’t have been anything. ¬†So, that’s why entrepreneurship is a lottery ticket, yet it’s also better if you don’t give up after many failures or attempts. ¬†Many of these companies that made it big, didn’t make it right away, and I’m sure they all have stories of their startup grind. ¬†I remember a founder presenting his startup before another startup at the NY Tech Meetup, and the second one this entrepreneur pivoted to is now worth many millions or billions. ¬†I remember one of the people presenting at the NY Tech Meetup, and the startup was sold for many millions. ¬†This entrepreneur should stay passionate about his idea, as he might make it big someday.

  72. another cultural landslide

    Years ago, when I was in radio, I interviewed Frank Zappa – and he said something that has stuck in my head ever since:”If you make music because “you make music” because “you think you’ll make a lot of money” – or worse yet, “people will like it” – then you’re in the wrong business.”Same thing applies here.¬†

    1. fredwilson

      wow. i would love to have had the opportunity to meet frank zappa. i always loved his approach and his music.

      1. another cultural landslide

        I was fortunate enough to have interviewed him twice; both times I was amazed not only by his intellect, but by his generosity with his time. He made the effort to be perfectly clear in his thinking, and welcomed the hardest questions to philosophies. And he was unwavering. He walked the talk – and what he said then is still amazingly relevant today. It still affects our thinking & approach to what we do every day. (He also had a great laugh.)

        1. fredwilson

          he died too young. i still miss him and his music.

          1. another cultural landslide

            Ditto. It’s truly a shame he’s not here during these bizarre times; his voice could have made such a difference in the debates over SOPA, CISPA and their ilk. And Musically? He was truly just starting to reach the levels of what he had fought for as a composer – what he could have with today’s tools! Yeah. We still miss him, too.

  73. Adam Grainawi

    Look, I agree with you. There are very minimal odds for success in the start-up game. I’ve heard some stats that only 1 in 40 even receive funding. If the potential billion dollar exit is a lottery ticket, getting your foot in the door seems like it’s just maybe better than a raffle.¬†You can look at those stats and determine that the odds are too small. The expected return (greater than 99% chance of $0) of your time investment is much too low to even metaphorically “buy your ticket.” The lottery is a fools game, right?Yet, although your analysis is sound, you do not acknowledge the key difference. Entrepreneurship is not purely a lottery. We all know this. Those with the vision, the drive, the ability, the connections, the know-how,… have significantly better odds than those that are missing certain qualities. If the tech start-up game is a lottery, then it is a lottery that gives certain start-ups thousands of tickets and others just one.¬†The odds are still very low, regardless. This is where having a vision of a better worldwide experience with technology¬†make the difference. If you’re only in it for the cash it’s very unlikely that your product will amount to much. Without that vision one wouldn’t know why to persevere ¬†in the face of failure and others’ success.Ultimately, from the perspective of an entrepreneur, if you look at it as a lottery you’re placing too much of the burden of success on random chance. You’ve taken the blame out of your hands and likely have already failed. Anyone can lose a lottery – anyone can win a lottery. Not just anyone starts and leads a billion-dollar company.¬†

  74. William Mougayar

    This post ought to be pinned in the AVC hall of famers all time best, certainly in the top 5, based of my 3 1/2 years history on this blog. Fuelled by Jerry’s initial salvo, JLM, Charlie & Panterosa really killed it. What a series of comments!¬†On this day, May 1st, AVC received 287 Likes. I don’t have access to a complete history, but it feels like a record. Fred can probably confirm. (average likes/day are typically about 100)

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t pay attention to likes. but you are right. the comments to this post are a collection of gems.

      1. William Mougayar

        The spike in total likes was telling. Some readers that might not comment express their emotions with these Likes.

  75. Robert Young

    Hi Fred… I wrote this a *long* time ago and thought it might contribute to this conversation… http://gigaom.com/2007/01/2…@P2chairman

    1. fredwilson

      thanks for sharing that post. great stuff.

  76. Drew Meyers

    but aren’t we all entitled to billion dollar checks?I kid, I kid..

  77. jason wright

    This new Disqus 2012 makes it more difficult to read the thread.

    1. fredwilson

      i am sure daniel would appreciate your thoughts on what needs work

  78. Stu McLaren

    I 10X agree with this.Too many startups are focused on getting a payout instead of providing value.The truth is, the payout comes as a result of providing value.Focus on providing value and the payout will come.

  79. Dowwie

    To realize a billion dollar company, all one needs to do is monetize their computer science 101 final term project. I mean, isn’t that essentially what Instagram and Evernote are?

  80. Chris Larson

    You really captured the entrepreneurial spirit.

  81. Ronnie Rendel

    I know this is yesterday’s post, but i really want Fred to answer: Evernote just got $100M on $1B valuation, after getting $50M in 2011, $20M in 2010, etc. for a total of over 196M.My question – what in the world can they be doing with all this money. their product is built, are they going to acquire companies, competition, customers? Where could they be going with this?

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t know. but i think its a combination of the following:1) they want to put a “number” on the business2) the money is there, it is cheap, and they figured they could use it 3) they want to be able to compete for talent, particularly acqui-hires

  82. katzgrau

    Starting something for $ was the point of one of my posts last week. Because it’s from a NYC perspective (and I’d imagine a lot of AVC readers are too), I’m sort of curious what everyone (anyone?) thinks:http://codefury.net/2012/04

  83. Michael Kovacs

    How timely. My co-founder and I interviewed with YC this past Sunday and that was what they harped on. “How does this become a $1B business?” The reality is that it doesn’t. We knew that going in (as would anyone that looked at our idea in the application) and are fine with that. Glad to hear you validate how insanely hard it is to just succeed at all let alone plan for a billion dollar business. And yeah, we didn’t get into YC.

    1. fredwilson

      you don’t have to go to YC to be successful. of the 45 companies we have invested in, only three have gone to YC.

  84. Lucretia M Pruitt

    Does it seem that far from reality to say “your billion dollar check is just waiting for you to create something that has a billion dollars worth of value to people?”Thousands of people run the New York Marathon every year. Some run with the goal of winning. Some run with the goal of finishing. Some run with the goal of doing better this year than they did last year. It’s okay to envy the guy that got first this year if you were running competitively and reasonably had a chance of competing for that spot. It’s not something you should envy, but rather respect, if you were running for other reasons. If you thought you were competing for first but you were really deluding yourself that you had the ability? That’s a different issue.Some people never run the race. Some people never finish it. Some people win. But aside from the timing and the nature of the game? No two people ever run the same race.

  85. Stiven Y.

    Where is the money that i will use??Stiv – poemas

  86. Prokofy

    A heartless industry. Just heartless. And not building institutions for the future, the way the Rockefellers and the Fords and the Carnegies did.Now, is Facebook low-balling it? Do you have Facebook stock, Fred?

    1. fredwilson

      hell no

  87. PHP Constructors

    There is no hurt in dreaming ways you can make money out of any business. But it will take a lot of thoughts to gather what your plan will be for the business. Plus making the plans work.

  88. Tom Labus

    But there all kinds of people launching companies. ¬†Some for the change thy want to see enacted, some for cash(lots of it) and some out of desperation.They’re all in the pot. ¬†Maybe that’s what makes it work.

  89. bsoist

    I can see how the “my baby” syndrome might be less a factor for a founder who is in it just for the money, and I can see where that might work for the good of the company, but …1. I think there are smart founders who realize that giving up control – at the right time, to the right people – will be what’s best for reaching the long term goal.¬†2. Fewer people will make it to that decision when it’s only about the money. Several other commenters, wiser than I, have said the same thing.¬†I guess I agree with you that balance is important.¬†It’s the difference between motive and motivation. My motive might be to change the way entrepreneurs learn, but one of the strong motivators is the financial reward – no question about it. I don’t think anyone succeeds without a bit of both.

  90. awaldstein

    Charlie…Thanks for this. There are topics that touch your hot button and this is one.¬†It’s a pleasure to get to know you through these comments.¬†

  91. JLM

    Wisdom is spoken through scars.  I can feel your scars as surely as I can divine the wisdom.Well played!

  92. panterosa,

    People have a hard time being naked and realizing the rest is drag. But naked is you, your brain and heart power, and your dreams with no wallet.I am working on a .com .org blend company to have one arm pure research, and give back to the species of animal in my toys. I like both these pieces to balance the middle core of making a living thru selling product.

  93. Tom Labus


  94. Cindy Gallop

    Hear hear. Being in it just to make a huge amount of money guarantees you won’t.

  95. ShanaC

    Definitely realist advice – the one thing you didn’t say is what motivates you.How do we align ourselves with this other kind of motivation if we ignore our innrer selves?

  96. Carl Rahn Griffith

    “… time as a limiting factor.”So true, so simple.So many seem to act/think as if they are immune to this mortal coil.Not good.