(007) The end of startup theatre
Value is synonymous with empirical truth
The impending economic collapse is bringing about the end of startup theatre — in other words, we’re getting a closer look at truth. When I was a teenager, I loosely held the belief that suffering was truthful. Experiences that made you suffer were somehow more trustworthy and real than inflated feelings of happiness (or indeed, carnivals of “free money” in the startup realm). I changed my mind as I got older, identifying the need to trust in emotional goodness in order to build lasting relationships, but there’s an element of struggle that I think holds true for building a company. The period ahead is inevitably going to hurt but it also might make the environment, and ourselves, more honest.
Startup theatre is this idea that people want to call themselves founders more than they actually want to build great companies. Why have there been so few iconic companies in recent years? Do any even come to mind?
One nebulous goal of startup theatre is to post a status that you’ve raised a few million and hired a team vs actually finding product market fit. Got a problem? Hire another team member! Still haven’t found PMF? Raise again!
The swaths of “A Day in the Life” videos seem to support this idea that you can play startup vs do startup. With the role of founder elevated to god-like status and imbued with an air of celebrity, more people desire to be founders than doing the founding.
If free money = startup theatre, then money scarcity = death of startup theatre = truth. The purest way that truth can be represented is through value. Companies and teams will actually have to start providing value and doing so within increasing constraints, which arguably is how the best creativity is bred. I recently read a great interview with the founder of Teenage Engineering who argues for limitations. He’s talking about design but this applies to anything:
“With any kind of creative work you start disabling as much as possible and narrow it down only to the necessary tools you need, and from there start making the work. That’s what I believe makes you super creative.”
“Narrow it down only to the necessary tools you need” — I’m very inspired by several friends building around me who have actively declined the VC route in favour of a fierce commitment to creating value and shunning the optics of what people think success is. They’re doing the unglamorous work of finding genuine PMF and using money to scale instead of raising money and then hoping that product-market fit will come along. They’re lean, talented and unenticed by the charade. In the times ahead, I’m certain that will serve them well. It’s an infinite game.
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I’m preparing for plenty more announcements in the vein of Meta rescinding signed offers (never been done before), Coinbase laying off another 20%, etc. Another day, another layoff. Who and what is left is a more accurate depiction of truth, which begs the question: Are we getting closer to reality? And is the future of reality essentially: greater disparity? All signs point to yes.
Minimum Viable Product all the way in terms of approach (what’s the absolute LEAST you need to get a working version) infused with Maximum Fucking Love (a great idea that resonates with people, has inherent virality, is something people want)
The eternal words ring in my head: If you compete to be the best, you imitate. If you compete to be unique, you innovate.
For the lols, I asked Chat GPT to give the TLDR of what I just wrote and was rather impressed:
Thinking of someone? Forward this.