Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Angel Investors Have Horns


Interesting discussion about making money over at 37 signals.

People alternate between revulsion for and adoration of people who make money. There is currently an enormous reliance on style points in choosing between execration and exaltation. A large swath of the public believes that only money that you appear to get by accident, like gambling winnings; salaries for activities others do for free -- like sports; passive income like many Internet websites provide without really doing anything; and the wages of idiot celebrity, including, of course, selling autobiographies even though you've never done anything, are the only approved methods of getting rich. No matter what, you have to seem like you're not interested in making money. Persons think that Steve Jobs is less avaricious than Bill Gates, for instance. Sure he is.

The exploitation of quirks in a system in which you do not fully or willingly participate in is another fave. Enough illegality to seem exciting but not exactly criminal is considered THE piquant style point, of course. See Office Space or Trading Places for amusing examples of the genre.

Our weird ideas about whether or not you're doing it in the approved hipster fashion mask an underlying problem. Making money as an entrepreneur is hard. But somewhat counterintuitively, the hardest way to make money might be to have it handed to you.

This is one of the reasons I encourage entrepreneurs to bootstrap instead of taking outside money. On day one, a bootstrapped company sets out to make money. They have no choice, really. On day one a funded company sets out to spend money. They hire, they buy, they invest, they spend. Making money isn’t important yet. They practice spending, not making.

Bootstrapping puts you in the right mindset as an entrepreneur. You think of money more as something you make than something you spend. That’s the right lesson, that’s the right habit, the right imprint on your business brain. You’re better off as an entrepreneur if you have more practice making money than spending money. Bootstrapping gives you a head start.


The world is rather a harsh place for true entrepreneurs just now, much more so than for people that are gaming some system for money, which has become the Holy Grail of angel investors. I've learned everything in this life the hard way, and the hardest lesson to learn is to only borrow money -- which includes accepting capital for a piece of the action -- to expand on something that already makes money.

Don't get me wrong; if your business plan is to fleece investors, by all means, take the money. Billy Ray Valentine would.

6 comments:

Rob De Witt said...

Unfortunately, you left out the hippest way to be rich of all - having the foresight to choose the right parents.

Retriever said...

Very good post. I live in a community where most everyone who considers themself successful and who is fawned upon has got rich on Wall St. I have more respect for the work by my friends and neighbors who make things and start and grow local businesses.

My dad started his own company in his mid-forties and lived like a student for twenty years growing it, and making payroll, so I know how hard this can be, but also how rewarding. He died only moderately successful financially, but happy to have produced a good product, employed and trained good people, and helped to develop the technology in his business, and done something to help feed people in the Third World.

There are plenty of good and honest people at my church who earn a living in financial services, but I don't trust their products or their investment schemes, even if the people themselves seem decent. Nuff said.

TmjUtah said...

Contemporary small business owners could well end up being remembered in a future "Schindler's List" production.

You cannot kill the human spirit by bribes if the human in question refuses to be bought and instead chooses to fight chooses to seek his own path to happiness. His terms.

You sure can kill the human, though.

Maybe that's why government has kept AMTRAK around all these decades. Business might boom again, eh?

I hope it doesn't come to that.

ricpic said...

The key is to keep an eagle eye on spending.

DBC Reed said...

Never sure about the exact connotations to put on "hipster" (see above in "Angel Investors").At least since hearing Harry "the Hipster" Gibson sing "Who put the
Benzedrine in Mrs Murphy's Ovaltine".This geezer was performing before Norman Mailer drafted hipster into his literary battalions.And Gibson can claim to have invented rock'n'roll.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi DBC- Thanks for reading and commenting.

I use "hipster" as a term describing a demographic that moves with the times. People intensely interested in what's cool at any given time.

Oops. Now I've introduced the term "cool" into it, too.

I believe the term with a hipster nowadays is "deck."