How to Be an Entrepreneur
Now’s a great time to be an entrepreneur in San Francisco. What's an entrepreneur, you ask? Great question, person reading this. Here's my general take:
entrepreneur | än trə prəˈno͝or,ˈnər|
Technical answer: A person who organizes or operates a business that takes on greater than normal financial risks to do so.
Let's-play-the-honesty-game answer: A person who is "unemployed-ish, kinda."
See, that's just it: No one knows what the f*%k the word entrepreneur really even means, because the word is getting thrown around in this town at an alarming clip, in an awfully ambiguous way.
Got an idea, sorta? You're an entrepreneur. Got a friend who's an engineer who could "totally build it out for you"? You're an entrepreneur. Were you drunk and thought of a better way to find the burrito store? Get Aaron Sorkin to write an aggressively fast-paced, dialogue-laden screenplay about you immediately, Zuck. You nailed it.
Look. I get it. It's a lot sexier to say that you're an entrepreneur than to say that you "sorta, maybe" have an idea that may or may not be worthless, and/or was already thought up and executed by someone else. More importantly: It's a lot sexier than saying that you do not, for all intents and purposes, have a job.
But it's getting a bit out of control. Honestly, what does it take to be an entrepreneur? A logo you made in Photoshop slapped on an American Apparel T-shirt and a Twitter account that says, "Coming Soon"?
It seems like anyone at this point could be one. You know who else has great ideas, or at least feels they do? Homeless people. And if the guy at the 24th Street BART station is an entrepreneur, I’m concerned.
Since it seems too easy nowadays, I came up with a checklist of sorts that summarizes, from my understanding, how to run a successful start-up to be an entrepreneur in this town. If I can make this – and if it has any validity – it’s time to rethink the system before everyone is selling fake digital vegetables on a fake farm for a living.
Check a few of these boxes, start throwing the word "entrepreneur" in front of your name at bars, and you may as well offer an IPO and buy a Learjet.
1. Your company or app name should be spelled with a missing letter. Like, just one letter. Just think of something you enjoy, remove a letter, and you're done. For instance, "Pictures” becomes “Pictre.”
Other examples: Letrs. Singr. Eatr.
Not enough? Feel like losing the letter made it too hard to pronounce? Then just spell the word using a vague notion of what your company does differently.
Examples: Saloote. Showt. Dewdle.
When all else fails, just slap an "i" in front of it or an "ly" on the end of it, or just pay someone to make an incredible logo instead. We all judge a book by its cover, stop lying to yourself. Why do you think I write on this site? Pretty pictures > words.
2. Learn how to spell the word “entrepreneur” because it is f*cking impossible. You're going to say it all the time in conversations at coffee shops in the middle of the day when you're giving a vague definition of your app or company to other entrepreneurs who oddly also have the time to be at a coffee shop in the middle of the day. Hell, you'll probably say it just to get laid sometimes. If you can't spell it? That's bad. There are a lot of tricky e's and sneaky r's in there. Don't even get me started on that bat-out-of-hell “u.” Be careful.
3. Get a giant office space that you can't afford and put crap in it that says, "This isn't your father's office; we're here to be young and be more creative than you will ever be." Extra points if this address was once used by a previous young, hip, and creative entrepreneurial start-up (Yelp/Twitter, etc). Be sure to have at least one or a few of the following criteria filled:
- A ping-pong table
- A kegerator
- A ping-pong table that is also a kegerator
- Video game systems
- A yoga/Pilates room
- Someone who gives massages while people work, because that's entirely cost-effective and reasonable
- At least one dog that is "the office dog" and has its own Instagram feed
Wanna go next level? Brew your own kombucha on site. It hasn't been done yet to my knowledge. You're welcome, prospective entrepreneur.
4. Qualify everything you say with, "It's just part of the start-up lifestyle." We get it, entrepreneurs: It's tough being an entrepreneur. You guys work all day. Sometimes even all night. Sometimes even weekends! UGH. It's the worst! You know who else does that? Most people with a job. Let's just calm down already. We respect that your job is hard. You know who else's is? Everyone's.
5. Attend at least 14 conferences a year about entrepreneurs. At these events, you will no doubt talk to other entrepreneurs about the struggle. You will discuss how you've gotta fail to succeed. You will discuss quotes from other entrepreneurs about how ideation and creation is what you live for. If you don't attend these, no one is going to know you're an entrepreneur. No one.
6. Get American Apparel T-shirts and/or sweatshirts with your app or company logo on them. Make sure to force engineers to wear them, but keep in mind that they're going to be indoors all day writing code and no one will ever see them. This is the equivalent of giving the polar bear that never comes out of his cave at the zoo a sweatshirt promoting the zoo. (Side note: Screw you, polar bear. You’re the reason I’m here. Stop being a diva.)
7. Throw vague parties for your company or app and invite other hotshot entrepreneurs and anyone who writes for TechCrunch or Mashable. Make sure to have an up-and-coming band and/or rap artist play some music because this is totally the crowd said rap artist was thinking of when he wrote "F*ck the Police." Bonus points if you have a food truck that has a Twitter account. If it doesn't, what the F*CK is it doing here? IF I CAN'T TALK TO THE FOOD TRUCK VIA SOCIAL MEDIA, I DON'T WANT ITS ARTISAN BUN MEE, YO.
8. Pivot. Have amazing strat. Shorten the word entrepreneur to 'treps, because that is in no way embarrassing and entirely necessary. What I'm really getting at is: Introduce vague words that deter people from realizing the fact that you don't actually have a product. If you have strat? If you're pivoting? You are 'trepping, brosef. You are 'trepping.
9. Disrupt everything. It doesn’t matter what it is, just say you’re going to disrupt it. The way people brush their teeth? Disrupt it. The current fill-in-the-blank marketplace? Oh, you’ve GOTTA disrupt it, ’trep. The way people are currently disrupting things? Disrupt that.
10. Sponsor a hack-a-thon. Do most of us even have any idea what this is? No. No we don't. But we aren't 'treps, now are we? From what I understand, it's like offering the people who actually do the work for your start-up some candy to lure them into the back of your start-up van to do the work they don't actually want to do, later.
11. Tell people you have angel investors, even if you don't. Because how pleasant does that sound? Do people in other fledgling, in-the-red companies have angels investing in them? No. They have the IRS asking for them to please invest in the IRS.
12. Get Google or Facebook to buy you, even if they have no idea what you are. Because everybody's doing it.
Look, I’m not anti-entrepreneurial. Amazing things have been dreamed up over these past few decades that have altered my life, to the point where I would have no income without them, and they were made by some amazing, innovative people. I respect innovators, I respect people with real, tangible, powerful ideas.
I'm just having trouble respecting people calling themselves a 'trep with reckless abandon.
Let's slow down on proclaiming ourselves the next Zuckerberg or Dorsey, guys.
Let us know when you have more than a word missing a letter in it.