4 Lies startup culture teaches you about running a business

I love a lot of things about startup culture. I love that more people than ever are giving entrepreneurship a real shot. I love that people are building businesses every day that solve major problems and make the world a better place.

But sometimes, as indie entrepreneurs or freelancers, it can be easy to get caught up in all the lies that this new startup culture is projecting.

The risk is: if you measure the success of your small, indie business by the startup “rules,” you may find yourself unhappy with your business or success.

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Below are 4 big lies you should really think twice about before judging your business by them:

Lie #1: You need venture capital to get your idea off the ground.

Turns out, even most high-growth companies don’t take on venture capital. In fact, a study at the Kauffman Foundation reports less than 20% of the fastest-growing and most successful companies in the United States had venture investors.

We’re talking legit, sometimes huge companies here. Maybe you’ve heard of a few of them: Dell Computers, 37 Signals (now Basecamp), ShutterStock, Best Buy and more.

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If they can make it happen without venture capital, so can you. Just because Shark Tank makes getting angel investors sexy doesn’t mean you need it.

In fact, here’s why you don’t actually need money to start a business.

Lie #2: The best path to success is getting acquired.

Instagram was acquired by Facebook for $1 Billion. Yes, billion with a “b.”

And in the tech world especially, getting acquired is not only sexy, but often the primary exit strategy for a small business.

But for many of us, that’s not the point. Starting a company to grow it fast and, ultimately, get bought out by some big conglomerate doesn’t sound any more fun than working a corporate job for the rest of our lives.

Maybe a big payout isn’t for you. That’s ok. You can build one heck of a lifestyle business for yourself (and your team too if that’s what you want) without aiming for an acquisition exit.

Lie #3: You’ve got to start a tech company.

Silicon Valley is the hotbed of entrepreneurial activity right now. Tech startups of all kinds are sprouting up and thriving by the second it seems, which can make you think that all the success and money to be had is in the tech world.

You might think you’ve got to build an app that changes the very way we do something in order to be successful—the way Uber did it with transportation or Airbnb did with hospitality.

You’d be wrong.

Plenty of companies are doing amazing things without innovative technology. Fun food company Popchips is a good example: it’s one of many non-tech companies listed on Forbes’ list of America’s Most Promising Companies.

It ranked #5 —beating out 94 other companies.

Lie #4: You have to disrupt an industry.

Companies like SpaceX, Uber, Airbnb, and Spotify might have you thinking you have to completely turn an industry on its head in order to be successful.

It’s simply not true.

All it takes to succeed at business is to be better at whatever you do than someone else. Not necessarily everyone else. Just better than enough people that you can support yourself and your business on your work.

In fact, here’s why you don’t need a revolutionary idea to start a business.

There are plenty of drink companies out there that don’t have any interest in competing with Coke. Plenty of film studios that don’t want to compete with Disney.

Imagine that delicious local pizza place in your city. If their sole goal was to disrupt the pizza industry and destroy companies like Pizza Hut and Dominoes, they wouldn’t have time to hand-craft that delicious hometown pizza you grew up with.

You don’t always have to be the biggest and baddest in your industry.

It all comes down to this:

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself this question: why are you in business?

Look, if you want to destroy Pizza Hut, by all means, go for it. If you want to start the next big tech company, get acquired by Google, be the next Instagram, or raise millions in venture capital, be my guest.

But, if like so many of us, you simply want to build a business that supports you and your lifestyle, brings in plenty of revenue, and most of all, makes you a happier person, then please:

Stop believing the lies that startup culture is shoving down your throat.

PS: If you enjoyed this post, you’ll like our free ebook that will help you crush your excuses for not starting a business. Kill the excuses and start building a business today.

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  1. Thank you Preston for this very empowering, freeing article. As a Concept Artist from a prestigious design school I’ve been plagued by these really disempowering ideas that now I realize, really, came from “Startup Cultures”. Thank you.

  2. “All it takes to succeed at business is to be better at whatever you do than someone else. Not necessarily everyone else. Just better than enough people that you can support yourself and your business on your work.”

    Very true. I think if you want to be truly great though and really make a name for yourself in your marketplace you have to at least *aim* for being better than everyone else.

    You might not achieve that (or maybe you will!) but the effort will push you to be much better than you would have otherwise – and I think it gives everything you do a certain special energy that you just don’t find in most places.

    Just my 2 cents, anyway 🙂

    Great post.

    1. @David Tendrich, I agree. Thanks for the additional clarification.

      I guess what I was getting at is: to get your business off the ground and sustainable, you don’t have to beat out the biggest name in your industry right out of the gate.

      But I agree, sometimes impossible or near-impossible goals have a way of motivating us to do amazing things.

      Thanks, man.

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