One major trend which I have noticed is that modern startup methodologies like Lean Startup have made it look like building a successful business is a scientific endeavor with a deterministic outcome. The underlying refrain is 'follow this method, and your startup is likelier to succeed'.
Further, the barrier to entry for technology companies is extremely low. This is something I have found out first hand as I started building my product, RecordBox, this week.
All this has led to an explosion of new startups attacking nearly every niche.
However, I don't think anyone believes that the odds of success of today's startups are going to change much. The success-to-failure ratio of this new generation of startups will be the same as ever.
In this post I would like to talk about something that is not commonly spoken about in the blogosphere, and that is the importance of passion and love of founders for their product. Simply put, nothing can be a substitute for love. And we forget that to our own peril.
What passion and love looks like
I like to make analogies with music, and I think there is a very germane one to make at this juncture. To play any sort of music, one needs to have technique. Technique is the ability to train ones body to produce the notes that constitute the music. However, music is more than a set of notes arranged in time.
There are plenty of musicians who can move their fingers very fast, and hence appear to be very skilled. But there are very few musicians who can really move you. There are very few who can summon deep emotions and make you feel at peace with yourself and with the world. There are vey few whose music can inspire you and really make you feel good about life.
What accounts for the difference? I think it all has to do with the artist's attitude to music. Real artists never feel that any of their performances are 'perfect' --they always have something to take back to the practice room after every concert. They are constantly evolving and learning, even though they may be undisputed masters and have been playing for several decades. These are the artists whose performances are much beyond skilled movements on some instrument.
Only love can create these artists. The great musicians are devoted to the music itself. Fame, fortune, being revered, etc. are mere side-effects. Each note, each phrase, each composition is given the utmost attention for its own sake. No stone is left unturned.
As in music, so in life
The same goes with everything else in life. It is very easy these days to produce things that 'seem like' the real thing. You can buy a fancy-ass DSLR camera and produce really good looking photos. You can spend a year taking classes at a community college and produce a web app that 'looks' snazzy and fancy and promises a lot.
But the real value in this world is not superficial and never will be. Products from founders who are doing it because it is 'easy' or 'cool' will never be compelling to anyone. Not in the long run anyway.
How could it be? With so much noise and so many options in the world today, only authenticity will stand out. And authenticity is the product of love and passion. Only if you love what you do will you dig into its depths. Only with love will you find the limits of your own ability. Only love can produce the will to push and prod these limits and hence go where no one has gone before. Only love will give you an instinct for what is good and what is not so good. And this is the basis for authentic action.
Modern methods and techniques can help the passionate ones get where they want to go faster. In that they are good. But they are not silver bullets. They won't convert straw to gold.
And so it is important to devote yourself to what you love, to the thing that you do for its own sake. Don't get fooled by seemingly 'easy' paths. Nothing meaningful is ever done by following someone else's instructions to the letter. And when you have only yourself to rely upon, the depth of your passion is the only thing that will see you through.