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Hey ,

I live in Cape Town, South Africa.

That's 16 493 km's away from San Francisco, 12 548 km away from New York and 9637 km away from London.

Suffice to say I'm not very close to any real tech hub and whilst I travel as often as I can, transatlantic flights are a pain in the ass.

Yet, I manage to create a multimillion dollar business (WooThemes) that has a global audience, of which two-thirds is actually in the US (so anywhere from 12 000 - 17000 km's away from where I am).

This has been a good thing. Let me explain.

Buck Startup Trends

I've previously written a bit of a rant about why startups shouldn't follow trends. One of the things that pisses me off most is when there is a "Silicon Valley"-way  for everything that relates to startups and entrepreneurship.

The problem with this "trend" is that it gets over-hyped so easily and suddenly all startups are focusing on building B2C offerings, and their biggest victories is announcing another fundraising round on TechCrunch. Such a cliche.

I totally imagine the related conversations looking like this pretty quickly. :)

But if Paul Graham says so, then it must be true...

This morning I was reading an interview with Y Combinator founder, Paul Graham. With a title of "Paul Graham on Building Companies for Fast Growth", I must admit that I was skeptical.

Y Combinator and Paul Graham are probably at the core of so much that happens in and with startups worldwide. If Paul says X about startups and advises Y Combinator startups to do that, they say "Amen" and get shit done. No arguing.

But many times this has the same effect that leads me to tell you: buck trends.

Yet, this article had quite a few valuable bits that I quite enjoyed (and actually believe too):

  • "The way the failures die is they run out of money. So what could cause them to run out of money? They can either not make something people want or they can be bad at selling it."
  • "I've written a lot about what a bitch the start-up world is."
  • "Some people are meant to be employees. Other people discover they have wings and start flapping them."
  • "The very best ideas usually seem like bad ideas at first."

All of that sounds really nice, but does this suddenly become the de facto standard for all startups (yours including)? I don't think so.

If you read through James Althucher's "The Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Starting And Running A Business", you'll find contradicting advice. Heck, I don't know James, but I bet he'll admit that what he writes is part experience and part opinion.

So what does this mean for you?

If there's one thing that I've learnt in the past 6 years of my entrepreneurial journey, it's that there's more than one way to skin a cat.

Not based in San Francisco, New York, London or any other startup / tech hub? So what. You can create and implement your own recipe for success.

When doing so, here's some of the things that I would start questioning:

  • What's your definition of happiness and how does that relate to any of your startup endeavours? Do you really want a $1bn company?
  • Do you really need outside funding or can you sell your product to enough customers so that they fund your operations?
  • How many customers do you really need to create a successfull startup (for you)? (Maybe you just need 500 customers that pays you $30 pm, which means you're earning $180k a year.)
  • Does the world really need another social networking mobile app?

My point here is that you should always have hope. There you could be, hacking away on your product in the early hours of the morning, because you are chasing the startup dream. Justin Jackson sums this up really well:

"There are so many of us, working on our own, in our basements, trying to push past this invisible barrier. Alone and stuck."


The thing about entrepreneurship is that you shouldn't allow yourself to be put into any boxes. I say fuck boxes. Instead you should always strive to create your own, bigger, better or just plain different boxes.

That's how you disrupt the status quo; by not accepting the labels that society, mainstream tech media and Paul Graham wants to impose on you.

I don't believe that failure really exists; it all depends on your definition of what success really is. For me, I can feel successful and happy as long as I'm making new mistakes, I'm learning and swinging for the fences.

But that's just my definition...

Whose definition of your startup / success / entrepreneurial journey really matters?

Only yours. I bet you are your biggest critic, but you are also inherently your biggest cheerleader.

Don't give up. Avoid labels. And never let others put you into a box. Know your passion and pursue that with all the gusto you can muster.



PS. I have nothing against Paul Graham (I have loads of respect instead ), Y Combinator (I would not have minded if I was clever enough to be the founder) or San Francisco (I love the place).