When I was young, I loved (often self proclaimed) “serial entrepreneurs”.
People who had a (co)founded so much companies they didn’t fit in a Twitter bio seemed so cool to me. They’re self confident, always have cool startup stories to tell you, and they had lots of free time to do it.
They wear Lean Startup t-shirts. They narrate how they pitched Jeff Clavier in the Carlton’s elevator and almost made it to this 20 millions serie B but he picked up your competitor because they were in the US (hint: Jeff has an early stage fund). They recall how cool were the first Tuesday parties before the first dot com crash (they were 14 and never heard the word “startup”). And they tell about all these cool parties at SXSW (but they never had a stamp put on their passport).
Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit.
Working for startups, blogging about startups and failing at building 3 companies and at least twice as much services changed my point of view.
Serial entrepreneurs are great at telling stories in which they’re the hero until you ask them the only question that matters. Ask a serial entrepreneur why he’s started so many companies so little time, he’ll answer “I’m a serial entrepreneur, baby”. That’s true, in a way. If you have a look at their track record, they probably started half a dozen company, but they barely worked full time on more than 1 of them. That’s true, but that’s not an honest answer.
An honest answer would be something like “I’m unable to focus long enough to bring a project from A to B”. This includes both aborted projects and premature, often cheap exits, multiple pivots until all the cash vanishes, you name it. They are starter, which is not so bad considering most people will never start anything new in their life.
Being able to start things is great, but over the year, I’ve started to focus on a different type of entrepreneurs: the ones who’re able to start a company, bring it to profitability and drive them until the moment every day stops being a race against a certain death. Ironically, they’re the ones who have the more to tell and less time to do it until the day they retire. The Web is full of stories about starting a company or being a great manager, but the literature about making a startup an adult company is much less common.
Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, they’re not the ones people focus on: no quick and explosive exit, no failure porn and no cool story to tell around a cocktail in an airport bar. Would it happen, entrepreneurship would look less sexy to those who’ve never tried it and still ignore it’s just about seat and blood.