Hi, Do You Wanna Do A Startup?

I do get this a lot, probably too often.

I usually get, once a week, either a tweet, email, Whatsapp message or even a voicemail from someone who’s looking for a “technical co-founder” to do a startup with.

Yes, this is what I call “The Social Network” effect. People have watched that film too many times and now everyone has gone crazy for the “American dream”.

I am crazy too, but I do have a co-founder in whatever I want to do (sorry guys), so I am sorted for the next years.

Again, this is not an article for wanna be entrepreneurs, but part of my own thoughts and some of Paul Graham’s ones. If you don’t know who he is and you want to do a startup, you have a problem.

Let’s assume an imaginary world where I didn’t have a co-founder or any friend and I was looking for something. Why would I still say no?

  1. A co-founder is like a marriage, you need to spend 5 years of your life with the guy/girl, so why would I want to team up with someone I don’t know?
  2. If you don’t know to write a single line of code, why do I have to develop a product for you?
  3. Why don’t you get an intro from a friend of mine, instead of calling me?

Point No. 2 is crucial, especially because most of these messages come from business students, who obviously tell me they have focused their life’s goals into “digital marketing, strategy and business”, which is equal to “I know how to peel an apple and make sandwiches”.

No offense, but that’s true.

This is usually the case with tech ideas.

If you think you have a tech idea and you need a guy to build it, there is a high chance that your idea is completely wrong or doesn’t make sense, why?

You don’t know how to build it, so you have let your Steve Jobs’ mindset flow without even considering tradeoffs.

There was this time where a guy made me sign an NDA to later find out that he wanted to build the Internet all over again (literally, he wanted to make a clone for each website there was out there).

What lesson did I learn? Never sign a NDA. If you don’t have the guts to tell me what you want to do, why would I be interested?

Ideas change while you develop them, why?

You find better solutions, things to do or you see that your Steve Jobs’ idea is not doable.

Let’s assume that I say “yes, let’s do it!”.

The output would be me developing the thing for probably 6 months, then releasing it and iterating on the product, while getting feedback from the customers to get market product fit.

What would you do? Nothing. You would mostly sit and stare at me, while I play the orchestra.

You thought you could play the orchestra, didn’t you!?

That’s not going to happen, because you don’t know the product, you haven’t built it and you can’t understand what the users want because when I try to explain to you the lean startup model, you show me a business book.

Ideas != products.

If you don’t know what != means, again, close the business book and learn how to code.

“Steve Jobs DID IT!

I can shape the product, find customers, iterate, market, build a strategy, while you code it.”

Steve Jobs is one and he wasn’t even an exception. Yes, I am telling you that.

The exception was Steve Wozniak, the guy who invented the Apple 2.

You want to know the truth? I am not as smart as Steve Wozniak and Jobs, at least, knew how to connect a few wires, plus there is a big difference between doing a startup and running a 40k employees organisation.

In the latter case, you need to be a manager.

Guess what? You don’t need to get a degree, you can learn it.

In the past years, several different VC firms have set a trend where they invest in Founders/CEOs and train them to stay where they are supposed to be, in the CEO seat, even if they are Computer Scientists.

YC only invests in technical co-founders when it comes down to tech products. Having the bullshitter and the slave is pointless.

So why don’t we still get that times have changed?

University doesn’t talk about Startups. There are a few people who talk about “Entrepreneurship”, but they are wearing a suit most of the time, so they are not credible.

There are also a few groups that do “Entrepreneurial” events, but they are pointless, because it’s full of guys looking for the Computer Scientist to use.

The Computer Science department doesn’t talk about this. It’s an issue, which is also due to the demographic of students who study here. The majority of them opt for working in a bank.

Why? Money and the inability to understand that a startup could be 1000x rewarding, both financially and from a knowledge point of view, in any way.

How can we fix this?

Well, writing a blog post is a first attempt.

A second attempt would be to make people aware.

If you want to know how to write a CV, a cover letter, find or get a job, prepare an interview, be more “employable”, the University offers full support, but what if I want to be unemployed?

Where are my unemployment people? Are there any?

If we focus back on the business guys, I have got two pieces of advice.

  1. Don’t get a business degree, do something that makes you creative and gives you a domain expertise (and learn how to code). You don’t have to be a Computer Scientist, you just need to know how to build your own things.
  2. If you are already in a business program, learn how to code if you want to do tech stuff. Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, had a humanities background, he learned iPhone programming and sold his company for 1 billion dollars. It’s still doable. If you don’t want to learn, open an ice-cream parlour, you’ll have more success selling ice cream.

We come to the end of this blog post where I need to:

  1. Apologise to all the guys I have insulted. This usually happens when you put an egocentric guy, behind a screen, at 5AM, on a train to London.
  2. Thank all those who look for me. It’s always a pleasure to reply and also give you feedback on what you are doing. I always don’t know what I am talking about, but people still think I look smart, so if you want smart thoughts, get in touch.
  3. Apologise to the University, which is really not doing anything to fix this, but it’s also true this is not Stanford and we are not in Silicon Valley.
  4. Ask to all the Computer Scientists out there to look in the mirror and tell themselves they can do it without the guy who has read “The art of doing business”.

ps: I wrote this blog post while I was wearing a suit and heading to an interview with a bank. We all know that in the end, I will accept those nice £40k a year that are waiting for me! ehehehe

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ps1: “omitted, read the next blog post”

ps2: thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks for reading and not having punched me yet.

ps3: You can find me on Twitter at @edoardomoreni or Linkedin (I usually don’t accept many people, so if you want to talk, just stop or find me.)

My sweet spot is on the ground floor of the Learning Commons in the corner, but I haven’t been there in a while. I am spending my time in the Computer Science department because it’s my last year and I have stuff to do.

You could also poke me on Facebook, no one has already done that!

Please, please, please, my phone number is public, but don’t use it.

I can’t even remember my digits, so why would I think it’s important to listen to the first stranger who phones me?

Thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks for reading.

You’ll keep seeing blog posts like this because it’s my last year, so I feel the need to share.