So, you’ve made the big decision: you’re going to start a company. As the rush of adrenaline begins to fade however, you realise that you have no idea what you’re doing. It hits you that The Social Network may not be the world’s best handbook on such ventures, and Steve Jobs’ autobiography is not canonical literature on the subject. But maybe this is. Here are the eight steps to founding a start-up that will change the world.
1. Find a dorm room that smells with the stench of business ventures and three day old pizza. Or is it the stench of the socks you forgot to wash on laundry day? Either way, most start-ups are fertilised as late-night conversations in cramped college rooms. Alcohol is often a factor. You’ll need a motivated and eccentric roommate who often shows up to class in his pyjamas, socks and slides, as well as a whiteboard on which to spill your Doritos crumbs. Don’t use the whiteboard to write on – that’s too commonsensical. Use a window. Don’t forget to hatch your plots at 3 am in the morning, as creativity seems to desert most start-up founders at any other hour.
2. Spend about eight weeks and the remainder of your bank account (about $32) in a fit of coding. Ignore your coursework, time is too valuable to waste here. You’re going to need to pull all-nighters, and as many of them as you can. You tick off consecutive hours of being awake with a joyous pride resembling Steph Curry on a three-point tear. To accomplish this, you’ll need enough caffeine to disqualify an Olympic track team, a packet of those really nice ginger nut biscuits that your aunt buys, and a reduced libido. The opposite sex out of the picture, at least for the next few weeks. You just keep picturing walking into the campus bar, and collecting phone numbers like you’re Drake and they’re Grammies. Simply because you’ve got a name-tag attached to your chest that says: I’m a CEO, b*tch. Ahh. It’s nice to dream.
3. You send your site live. The tech world doesn’t even tremble, but you do, because this is going to change the Silicon Valley landscape. This is bigger than Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte (soy milk), and coincidentally you go to the famed cafe down the road to celebrate with your cofounder over all the hard work you’ve done. You promptly appoint him CFO.
4. The venture begins to take off, and you’re short on manpower. Consequently, you do what any rational 21 year old would do and appoint all of your drunk college friends to lead management positions. You’re excited to have them on board, but realise that your stock position, which started out at 80%, is now down to 51%, and you’re clinging with your life to the control of your little baby.
5. Your baby is not so little anymore, and you quit college (just temporarily, you tell your stricken parents) and move to Palo Alto. The housing market is crazy at the moment though, so all you can afford is a garage that someone tells you was once the headquarters for a medicinal plant operation. It’s okay though, because don’t all start-ups come from garages in Silicon Valley? It remains tough however, as you have to sleep on a concrete floor and the main constituent of your diet is still Doritos. Your best friend fights with you, because you both have different visions for your company. You make up eventually over another latte, but the tension is still there. As it is in the next question. How are you going to jump the big hurdles: making it in the big leagues?
6. You find a washed-up mentor, who’s last name is Paul. He won’t tell you his first name. We won’t go in to his drug habit, but he’s got connections. Or at least he did. He’s the only guy you know who’s still got a Blackberry, and you and your cofounder are pretty sure he hasn’t made a solid business investment since the FM radio was pioneered in 1933. He introduces you, by some miracle, to an angel investor, who’s got more money than sense. This angel investor’s name is Gary, and he buys you a bunch of Grasshopper cocktails, and in his intoxicated stupor somehow manages to sign a check for $500,000. Congratulations. You’ve made it.
7. The money buys a few interns and classier servers, but suddenly the argument between you and your cofounder escalates to the surface. For some reason that you’ll ruminate on in an autobiographical film in a decade, you choose to stick with Paul, who has proved valuable over the short-time. You don’t hear from your cofounder for a few months, and you drag yourself to work in a melancholic haze. Finally, you receive a subpoena. Your previous friend is suing you for $400 million, which is petty cash by this stage. Still, it’s the principle of the thing. You fight it all the way.
8. You reach a settlement, and that’s it. Smooth sailing into the sunset. That is, if you define sunset as fourteen hour work days and a promise to yourself that someday you’ll take a vacation. You’re sad, and your girlfriend is crazy. She demands that you sell your stock in the company and start a charity with her name on the banner head.
And you’re not done either. In come the meetings, which are, in the words of Dave Barry, an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other large organisations habitually engage in only because they cannot actually masturbate. Lawsuits are as much a part of your morning routine as coffee. People expect you to be constantly wearing a suit, and you’re going to be embroiled in a data-stealing scandal in which your face will replace the crying-Jordan meme in internet folk lore.
So you still want to start a company? Good luck to you.