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Thoughts and actions for the week of October 18, 2021

Thoughts

  1. I remember on my very first startup, my co-founder (the CEO) worried that we weren’t cool enough. We were building a white label community platform that was beginning to be used inside large organizations to share information: what would become a multi-billion dollar business. And we were doing it in a way that would allow companies to keep their internal information secure. But at the time, consumer social web startups were cool, and we lost focus by trying to chase that dream. The worry was more about the image of being a startup than creating something financially viable and doing it the right way.
  2. The startup community is absolutely chock full of posturing bullshit. A lot of this is the fault of VC hustle porn: raising money is celebrated. Having a great launch on Product Hunt seems awesome. Being able to tell regular people about your startup and having them recognize your brand is a milestone.
  3. But none of these things are the same as building an actually-successful business. Marketing and sales are important, of course, but if your entire effort is blustering and creating the right kind of external-facing energy, you’ll lose. There are plenty of those kinds of companies, but they’re not real: instead they’re sort of play-acting being a startup.
  4. You’ve got to ship. That means knowing how to build software that solves real problems and doing it, again and again and again, without losing focus.
  5. Another symptom of play-acting is just talking about what you’ll do instead of doing it, as if brainstorming or strategizing is as valuable a task as the act of making.
  6. Brainstorming and strategizing set the stage for the real work. They are not the real work.
  7. If you’re more worried about how you appear than the substance of what you do, you’ll want to spend most of your time on talk. Often founders like this will outsource the act of making as an afterthought, devaluing the skill and action of making in the culture of their organization. They want to be the ones who dictate what gets done without doing any of it.
  8. And of course, the people who make are on the hook for actually producing in this environment, and will receive the flak when it doesn’t happen, with little of the kudos when it does.
  9. This is what we call an abusive relationship.
  10. Not every maker can be a founder, but every founder should have a maker’s mindset.

Actions

  1. I’m in the process of shutting down a bunch of my cloud services (or at least, reducing them to their free tiers) and replacing them with home-spun alternatives. I used csvskit to take my large AirTable databases and turn them into local tables, saving me hundreds of dollars a month. More of this to come.
  2. I’m heading back to the west coast for a wedding. The trip is going to be a bit complicated, and I’m still trying to figure out the logistics.
  3. I’m also closing out my time in Cape Cod at the end of the month. I’ve been here since early August, in the house my great grandparents built. It’s been cathartic and wonderful to be here, but real life calls. I need to start packing up and preparing.
  4. We got here by road-tripping east; while my dad is going to fly back, my sister and I are planning to road-trip west. It’ll be a completely different kind of trip, and I can’t wait. Exactly when we do this, I’m still not sure, so there’s planning to be done. But it will happen.