永福 Jon Yongfook

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Accidental Entrepreneurs Don't Exist

This post is old — tech evolves rapidly and this content may be out of date and / or may not represent my current thinking on the topic

December 28, 2011

In response to this post.

The fairytale of an entrepreneur having an "aha!" moment - which transforms their business into a billion dollar public company - glosses over the months or years of wading through crap it took to get to that "aha!" moment.

The general sentiment of the author's post is correct, basically: have tons of ideas (90% of them will be rubbish anyway), get used to failing, suck it up asshole! I just object to the romantic idea of the "Accidental Entrepreneur" - it is a poor choice of words to describe the reality of the process.

Nothing about what the author describes seems accidental to me. Among the examples given are Groupon transforming from a charity fund-raising website to the now publicly-listed group buying website, and Twitter transforming from a failing podcast aggregator (called Odeo) into the now ubiquitous communication tool.

I believe those transformations happened much more deliberately and painfully than the romantic story we are led to believe in the watered-down version of events we hear in the press. I think it's much more likely that Groupon and Twitter in their early days had thoughts along the lines of:

Oh crap we have 2 months of cash left and no revenue, what the hell do we do now

or

Oh crap we have no traction after a year of futzing about, what the hell do we do now

or simply

Oh crap what the hell do we do now

People don't just stumble upon game-changing ideas, those ideas evolve out of a desperation to survive or succeed. If there was neither the desperation to survive or succeed then Groupon and Twitter would have vanished into the startup ether the way they began, as that quaint fundraising site and that quaint podcast aggregator.

The desire to survive, succeed and the willingness to fail multiple times to get there sounds as far from accidental as you can get. To me that describes a much more deliberate behavior, it's more hungry or stubborn than it is accidental.

The idea of an Accidental Entrepreneur is one that appeals to the lazy asshole in all of us. Accidental suggests if we keep plodding along with whatever random idea eventually we'll stumble upon something marvelous and turn it into gold. That's not how startups pivot and that's not how you're going to be successful. Take the author's advice - none of it is accidental, it's all extremely deliberate, pro-active and self-preservatory.

In summary: Don't be a pervert and fantasize about accidents!

Be a hungry, stubborn entrepreneur.

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