When my son graduated in 2017 with a degree in electrical engineering, he didn’t join a big company for his first job.
He created a tech startup with a friend.
For the next few months, his friends and his parent’s friends offered congratulations. “Congratulations on your startup! That’s so exciting!”
I didn’t offer the same “Congratulations!” cheer. But I supported him.
My startup veteran friends didn’t cheer so much either.
It’s not that he isn’t smart, entrepreneurial, or savvy about tech opportunities.
It’s that startup veterans and I know that startups are just brutally hard when you starting. Even when the startup succeeds and grows up.
And most startup ideas don’t work.
Despite the glamorization of startups and founders, most startups flame out painfully and it’s not so fun for the founders in the end.
Early startup adventures also pummel older and more experienced entrepreneurs. This wasn’t so much about age or experience.
It just seemed odd that there was a universal glorification of “Congratulations on your startup!!” all around. Before they started.
“Congrats!” when he was about to embark on a brutally hard adventure that usually doesn’t turn out well.
He and his co-founder friend lived in Silicon Valley for a while, then Manila in the Philippines, then New York City.
He learned a lot. He met a lot of smart and helpful people. They pivoted and kept trying things.
He learned to live extremely frugally on his own, which was great for his parents to see.
After two years and lots of tries, the business opportunity had pivoted to a place where he wasn’t interested in it.
It had morphed into a business process optimization in consumer marketing for big brands, not deep AI tech for cool startups that he was passionate about.
I got the early calls with encouraging news of progress.
Eventually, I got the calls about the hard questions and the bad news that couldn’t be avoided. They shut it down.
It was really hard on him.
I’m proud that he did it and he didn’t give up without trying really hard.
But we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s brutally hard.
Just like we shouldn’t clap for big funding.
Starting and funding are not the actual game.
Making something amazing for your customers that can turn into a bigger business is the game.
Since then, my son has been working on world-changing engineering projects with larger teams. He’s having a blast.
He says he might do a startup someday with a co-founder, but he’ll do it much differently next time.