There were three reasons why we survived. We had no money, we had no technology, and we had no plan. Every dollar, we used very carefully.
Read that one again.
Excuses not to jump into the unknown are a dime a dozen. In the case of entrepreneurship, the “I don’t have” list — I don’t have funding, I don’t connections, etc. — is a popular write-off for inaction.
Little do most people know how often lack of resources is the ingredient that creates great companies.
It forces you to be clever, to dissect problems instead of throwing cash at them, and to innovate instead of imitating better-funded competitors.
The Florida-based PR agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky is a great example of this, as are a few little enterprises you might recognize — Microsoft and Nike come to mind — that started with less than $10,000 in funding.
There is often an inverse relationship between the amount of funding and the ultimate success of companies.
More than a few Silicon Valley angels and entrepreneurs have embraced this concept. In “VC’s New Math: Does Less = More?” from the Wall Street Journal, Peter Thiel of PayPal fame, who has invested in ventures ranging from Facebook (join the 4HWW group here, 433 people strong) to the film Thank You for Smoking, exemplifies the new breed:
His company also reflects how a new type of venture capitalist is emerging, as start-up costs for Internet companies decline sharply. Many start-ups now need a bankroll of no more than a few hundred thousand dollars to get rolling, compared with the millions of dollars required a few years ago.
Keep in mind that the hundreds of thousands still refers to funding, which can now be secured with a good idea and a little testing with rentable Amazon infrastructure that costs in the hundreds (not thousands).
How to re-evaluate your “weaknesses”?
1. Write down the positives of whatever you’ve been viewing as a negative. Don’t know anyone? You’ll be a fresh face and won’t have any strikes against you. No funding? It will force you to find the neglected options and set trends instead of following them.
I focused on blogs for The 4-Hour Workweek launch because I essentially had no other options. If I’d had a huge budget and free reign over the publisher, I can almost guarantee I would have succumbed to outside peer pressure and put the bulk into print or ineffectual PR firms. Hunger and desperation can be good things.
2. Consider the negatives of the opposites. What if you had too much funding? It would create a false sense of security and breed complacency, both of which are more fatal to a start-up than bootstrapping. It could also overexpose you before your product or service is ready. It could give investors too much influence over big decisions. Don’t assume more of something is 100% positive. It never is.
3. Look for dark horse role models. “I can’t start a company — I’m too old.” Coronel Sanders started KFC after 40. The excuse doesn’t hold up. Can’t compete in sports because of a bum leg? Sprinter Oscar Pistorius has no lower legs and is aiming for the Olympics. You? For each reason for inaction you come up with, ask: has anyone overcome these or worse circumstances to do what I want to do? The answer is: of course.
Embrace your lack of resources, your weaknesses.
Far from a handicap, these are often the pressure points that will take you the furthest… if you’re able to use them instead of excuse them.
Odds or Ends:
Just a quick note to Om Malik — get well, my good man. Dear readers, send your good vibes his way, as he just recently had a heart attack and can use the moral support.
Posted on: January 6, 2008.
Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world's most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.
Who was interviewed? Here's a very partial list: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and nearly 100 more. Check it all out by clicking here.