For a lot of entrepreneurs, they see something and they say, “I have to have this,” and that will start them building their own. Wozniak
Even if we don’t get our money back, at least we’ll have a company. Steve Jobs
Livingston: What advice would you give to a programmer who’s thinking about starting a company?
Spolsky: I’ve got a lot [laughs]: Don’t do it. It’s going to suck. You’re going to hate it.
Can I steal one from Paul? Don’t start a company unless you can convince one other person to go along with you. If you don’t have two people (or I would even say three) that you’ve convinced to devote their lives to doing this, it’s just going to be a different thing. There are a lot of programmers that are very tentative about starting their own companies. There are a lot of working programmers doing something they hate, with some company that they hate, but they need money to pay the mortgage. So they figure, “I’ll develop something in my spare time. I’ll put in 1 hour every night and 2 hours on the weekends and I’ll start selling it by downloads.” And you say to them, “Who’s your cofounder?” And they say, “My significant other—husband or wife. My cat.”
But because they never really take the leap and quit their job, they can give up their dream at any time. And 99.9 percent of them will actually give up their dream. If they take the leap, quit their job, go do it full-time—no matter how much it sucks—and convince one other person to do the same thing with them, they’re going to have a much, much higher chance of actually getting somewhere. Because they either have to succeed or get a job. Sometimes “succeed” seems like the easier path than actually getting a job, which is depressing.
So quit your day job. Have one other founder, at least. I’d say that’s the minimum bar to getting anywhere.
There’s a bunch of people out there doing certain types of things and they seem to be pretty incompetent, but they’re getting huge valuations. Surely if I did those same things, knowing that I am less incompetent—merely semi-incompetent as opposed to extremely incompetent—I should be able to achieve at least their level of success.”
Livingston: What advice would you give to someone who had never started a startup but was thinking about it?
Gruner: I went to an executive conference several years ago in New York. One of the most interesting sessions had about six chief executives, all of whom were very successful, and the moderator asked, “If you could describe in one word the key to success for your company, what would that word be?” Very few answered in one word. Some of them said integrity, or communications, and things like that. The last person to talk was Michael Dell, and he said one simple word: persistence.