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How “startup” is to “entrepreneurship” like #IceBucketChallenge is to charity… and that’s not good.

Launching a startup is the in-thing these days. Like the #IceBucketChallenge, in a way. And that’s not good.

The virally popular #IceBucketChallenge is basically about YouTubing yourself getting a bucket of ice water dumped on your head, then challenging a couple of your buds to do the same. Somewhere there’s a charity donation to ALF, or EMP, or whatever.

I doubt that all those people who go through elaborate setups to get more views, will spend at least the same amount of time understanding the cause #IBC is supposed to help (ABC? AFL?). Even fewer have researched the charity to which they are giving their hard earned money (AMC?).

And, if the goal of the #IceBucketChallenge is to give to the cause, why is it that if you get a bucket of ice water dumped on your head you pay only 10% of what you would pay if you dediced not to do it?

#IceBucketChallenge, for all its good intentions, is not charity. It is a fundraising stunt. Granted, it appears to be successful in terms of virality and in terms of revenues for the foundation. But in terms of encouraging people to be charitable, it fails on so many levels. It is “pretend charity”.

And, unfortunately, that’s how I feel about most startups out there.

Most startups I come across are marketplaces or e-commerce sites, bolted together with pre-made modules, APIs and frameworks. There is very little innovation, be it technological, business or other.

My local newspaper breathlessly reports on the latest startups. Look for them about six months later, and most of the projects have been abandoned.

Startups are not about the launch. The hard part of entrepreneurship, which also makes it real, is about earning the trust and commitment of paying customers. This is dirty, sweaty, unglorious work. If you think Google Adwords and banner ads and growth hacks will get you loads of customers while you’re slurping a frappucino by your laptop, you’re missing the point.

A real entrepreneur goes out and gets face-to-face with the market, to understand their needs and figure out what will trigger them to choose what you’re offering. You will probably be in “soft launch” for a year or two building your product or service, figuring your problem-solution fit and product-market fit, and before you start seeing traction. Then you will spend another three years or more building the business to the point where it makes money for you, your team and your investors.

Launching a web site makes you just as much an entrepreneur as dumping a bucket of ice water on your head makes you a philanthropist. The real deal takes time, effort, commitment, and money.

Don’t get sucked into doing the popular thing because it makes for good YouTube or press coverage. Do it because you truly believe in it.

(Image via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/oNq8Zy Used under Creative Commons licence)

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