Go Build Something
Just Not a Dick Pic Filter
3 min read
“Go build something,” said the panelist who was clearly more experienced than me.
Boom. These words cut right to me at Nashville’s annual 36-86 Entrepreneur Conference in August 2018. One month out of the Navy and I had already jumped out of a plane with a bedsheet for a parachute. My bedsheet was “CrowdCrunch” - clearly a Billion Dollar company even though it hadn’t made a dime. Great name, great website, grand vision, and absolutely no basis in reality.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was deep into “entrepreneuring”.
“Entrepreneuring” is the stage most people who attempt their own business start in and, for many, never get beyond. Twenty some odd years ago I remember my dad telling me that 19 out of 20 businesses fail and here in 2020 that still seems to be a good round number - about 90% of startups fail.
With all the sexy buzz around accelerators, venture capital, angel investors, and building that network there’s a lot of people out there “entrepreneuring”. And why not? Who doesn’t want to be the next Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, or the Zuck himself? Oh and there’s also that “Founder and CEO” title you can immediately put on your business cards.
Bonus points for the ego.
First I’ll define “entrepreneuring” and then it won’t take long to realize why it will get you nowhere over the length of time you spend doing it.
Entrepreneuring according to Dictionary.com is a verb meaning “to deal with or initiate as an entrepreneur” or “to act as an entrepreneur.” Fair enough.
“Entrepreneuring,” however, is something entirely different.
“Entrepreneuring” is doing anything and everything but building something. It’s an endless treadmill that sucks most into a cycle of busyness that leads absolutely nowhere.
“Entrepreneuring” is about hoping the magic of the entrepreneurial spirit somehow rubs off on you and every door in your future suddenly opens up based on your enthusiasm alone.
“Entrepreneuring” is about attending lots of conferences, meetups, or any other similar gatherings and hoping to bump into that one person or thing (or probably several people or things) you are missing to make your idea a huge success - if only I knew . . .
It is listening to those who profit off the “entrepreneuring” eco-system spread false enthusiasm about a very loosely associated “Un-valley” start-up movement - as if building a business were a collective effort - which, I can assure you, it decidedly is not.
If you're unsure whether you're stuck “entrepreneuring” or if you've moved to the critical step of “building something” it's easier to take notice of what is not around.
Specifically, you’re unlikely to see any successful entrepreneurs out “entrepreneuring”. That’s because the people in this category are either 1.) building something that will make them successful or 2.) continuing to build upon that which has already made them successful.
Real entrepreneurs are builders by nature - they build and they test and they fall short and they get back up and above all they keep making everything around them better. All this building requires a lot of time and energy which is exactly why you’re unlikely to see any of these folks out “entrepreneuring.”
To be fair, “entrepreneuring” is not all bad.
There’s plenty to be learned. You can get nuggets of advice from folks who have been there - I definitely did. You can see what’s not working out for people. You can have your hopes dashed when you learn that VCs don’t actually hand out money for ideas.
But there’s no lesson as important as learning that you need to get out of this phase as fast as possible.
It sunk in for me at a We Work “entrepreneuring” event where I had struck up a conversation with my table mate. After I had explained the grand vision of CrowdCrunch it was his turn to pitch his business. That’s when I had the distinct privilege of hearing about “an app that uses AI to filter out dick pics”.
Now that is one I have not heard.
Are there so many dick Pics flying around that we need an app to filter them out? I’ve seen a lot of flying cocks scribbled on dirty cars in my day, but I was struggling to grasp how this was a problem that needed to be solved. Perhaps the best part of this conversation is when he offered up that the hardest part about building an AI model to filter out dick pics is that, well, man, you have to see a lot of dicks. But I digress.
I was entirely in the wrong place - the wrong phase - I was out “entrepreneuring” with Mr. Dick Pics himself.
So I moved on. I quit attending events with other aspiring entrepreneurs. I turned down meetings with VCs and even turned down an invite to a well-respected veteran pitch contest. I put my head down and I started to build - WE started to build. Thank you Mr. 36-86 panelist - it can’t be said better.