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Sweaty Startup

Entrepreneurship culture in America is all messed up and its a shame

published2 months ago
3 min read

Entrepreneurship culture in America is all messed up and it’s a shame.

TechCrunch. Product Hunt. Shark Tank. It’s all about new ideas. Changing the world. Innovation. 0 to 1. Blue ocean. Venture capital and exits and scalability.

And ITS ALL A LIE.

My friend Joe has started 3 different companies that've scaled to +$100m in revenue. He told me one of his secrets was a peer group of 8 other CEOs. A group to talk about embarrassing or hard to discuss topics.

This year Joe started letting others join his founder peer group.

Now there are 200 founders in it (all highly vetted and qualified). He asked me to help him find more startup founders who could be a good fit. Sweet spot is at least $5m/year in revenue. Interested? Apply here.

If you ask the average American who a real entrepreneur is they’ll say Jobs, Musk or Zuck. We read their books and idolize them and hang on their every word.

So the brightest among us think they need a moat. A new idea. Something revolutionary. We're setting them up for FAILURE.

I took an entrepreneurship course at Cornell in 2011. 24 kids with new ideas. Big plans. Pitch decks looking for series As. I was #25 with a regular old-fashioned business. When professors asked me what my differentiator was I didn’t have an answer.

"We're just going to pick up people's stuff and store it when they go home for the summer. I'll answer the phone, do things a little better and I think I can make some decent money."

I saw a company out there doing sweaty, non-scalable work. They weren't very good at it and yet they made really good money. I started by trading my time for money. Bought a $1500 cargo van. Storage Squad was born. Used the things I had in my life to make some profit.

  • I wasn’t trying to educate a customer base.
  • I wasn’t following my passion.
  • I didn’t need funding or a network.
  • I wasn’t competing against brilliant folks from Stanford.
  • I want trying to prove a concept.
  • I wasn’t emotionally attached to anything except adding value.

My customers and my competitors existed. I could study them interacting with each other. I made decisions with my brain, not my heart. I was competing against folks with fax machines, clipboards and paper ledgers. And the best part... WE WERE PROFITABLE FROM DAY ONE.

Hot a single one of those 24 folks in my class succeeded. They all went and got jobs. Their new ideas didn’t catch on. They all had dreams of millions of users and an exit. Scalable models that could work anywhere from a computer. But 99% failed to make a single dollar.

We made enough money in a few years to build our first self storage facility. That grew into the 60+ property $100m+ portfolio we own and operate today. We sold the service business in January 2021 for $1.75 million. We had no debt and no silent partners. My business partner and I split the cash.

So who are the real entrepreneurs? Who are the wealthiest people you know? I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about the people who do what they want to do when they want to do it. Who are they?

Now here comes the hard truth. I know a lot of wealthy entrepreneurs. None of them had new ideas. Very few of them raised VC money. None of them were on shark tank. They all did common things uncommonly well. Regular old businesses just a little better.

BORING STUFF.

Most of them have a few things in common: They worked really hard doing something not fun for 5+ years. Many times 20+ yrs. They started out trading their time for money. They did things that weren’t scalable. Many of them offered services.

They all had to talk to people. Most of the time face to face. They had to sell themselves and their ideas. They didn’t take a lot of risk. Most of them hired coders but few of them were coders.

The main point:

Stop buying into the hype. The click bait. The sexy stories of overnight success and mega riches. Entrepreneurship isn’t that complicated. Do something with good odds, low risk and moderate rewards. Don’t master your craft, master leading other people.

Think with your head, not your heart. It’s not about you and what YOU love or what YOU want to be doing. And lastly.. Start SMALL. Biz is about momentum. I started 10 yrs ago carrying boxes up spiral staircases. Now I’m buying millions worth of real estate.

And the best part. When you’re successful, experienced, wealthy and you have a killer network... It’s time to change the world with something BIG.

I made a list of 200+ simple business ideas. Check those out here.

Onward and upward,

Nick

P.S. Tax season is right around the corner and the folks at RE Cost Seg just let me know their fall / spring schedule is filling up and they're considering raising their prices. They've already delivered 1/2 my cost segs this year and the depreciation is mouth watering. Reach out if you're in the market - the proposal is free.

Professional engineering reports you can count on, and they do virtual visits to turn them around even quicker. Not sure what a cost seg is? Check out this thread.