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Drinking the entrepreneurial kool-aid


There is a dangerous culture to the web world we live in. It’s the belief that as a web entrepreneur you can have success without making money. The recent article in the SvN blog makes a strong stand against such businesses. There is an illusion that is perpetuated by the media and by entrepreneurs themselves. An illusion that all you need is a cool looking web app and some media coverage to secure your financial success.

Every year we see hundreds of new businesses pass through our doors. Even though most of our clients come to discuss their websites and digital strategies we always end up discussing their business models and economic ambitions. Through our own entrepreneurial experiences and those of our clients we have become really good at recognizing the ones that are hyped up on this illusion.

We have turned away dozens of clients over the years who come to our offices mumbling about a potential acquisition or ‘the next eBay’. These so-called entrepreneurs are victims of an overzealous media trying to make a story out of dreams. Sure we could just take their money and then watch as they slide into obscurity but we’ve decided that perpetuating this kool-aid culture would hurt everyone.

Without an unemotional assessment of the market potential and a real focus on profits starting a web business is just a wheel spinning activity. Even for business owners like us, who have had over a decade of practice getting this right, it’s hard to ignore the media and their cool stories of overnight success. These stories don’t revel the real truth that for ever $100M buy-out there are ten times as many failures. Unfortunately there are enough flash-in-the-pan stories that will convince lots of entrepreneurs that there are short-cuts to success.

My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is not to real too many glossy magazines. They will only distract you from the sometimes boring work of making a real profit. Raising money from a big name VC or relying on a big viral marketing idea are no matches for good old fashioned hard work. I’m not suggesting that ever business needs to be bootstrapped. However, the chances of success for even the most well funded and inspired businesses is exactly the same as the basement start-up funded with credit cards and organic profits.

Don’t believe the hype. History repeats itself with these roller coaster entrepreneurial stories time and time again. The same media-created wunderkund’s on the front cover of Fast Company in the late 90’s are all but gone and the same will be said of the faces on TechCrunch tomorrow. Have a goal to make a profit not just be a star.

Author Richard Banfield

As CEO, Richard leads Fresh Tilled Soil’s strategic vision. He’s a mentor at TechStars and BluePrintHealth, an advisor and lecturer at the Boston Startup School, and serves on the executive committees of TEDxBoston, the AdClub’s Edge Conference, and Boston Regional Entrepreneurship Week.

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