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Sentient Monkey

Just another code monkey.
I work and am married to a talented photographer.

Nov 29 '11

On jwzs and VCs and Startups

jwz’s recent rebuttal to Arrington’s startup’s are hard post was pretty scathing. You can tell that jwz got burned out pretty hard, and it’s understandable if you go watch Code Rush and read his resignation letter. But Arrington’s stuck a chord here - the jwz’s of the world have killed it. They put in long hours, grueled over churning out code, and have ridden the startup roller coaster.

Yes, startups are hard. But the reason we work there anyway is because we’re passionate builders. I think jwz’s rebuttal and Arrington’s response got side-tracked about VC money. If you work for a startup, and you have taken money from someone else, go back and thank them right now, or give it back. They paid your salary, and let you follow your passion and dream and fronted your risk. It’s their ass on the line if you fail as well, and they’ve entrusted their money to you. The alternative is pretty clear - bootstrap your company without money. While there are a few recent good exceptions (37 Signals, Github) that have been able to bootstrap it’s really hard. You either have to convince talented people to work for nothing, or stay a small one-person shop and grow small. Depending on your business this is either godsend or a death-knell.

Arrington’s point that jwz would do it all again was wrong - he said that it got him rich, and that’s why he’d do it again. He’s wrong. jwz would do it again because he loves to build awesome products, and was on the forefront of building a product that changed the world. The money is a nice side effect (don’t get me wrong), but there are other easier, less stressful, ways to make money.

There are lots of paths to success. I take jwz’s tale as both an inspiring and cautionary tale. At the end of the day, jwz now does something else for a living (he owns a nightclub, and I think codes occasionally, but I doubt that’s his primary function). I, for one, love to write code and build products that people love to us. I want to do my job for a very long time. As a result, I try to manage my work/life balance as best as I can, because I’m in it for the long haul. I want to be doing this in 30 years when I’m the grey-haired curmudgeon that rants about the days of php, nfs and the goddamn internet explorer 7. I will still out-pace the competition, deliver my products on time, and make a few amazing hacks along the way. But I’ll do it happier, and be there extra-early and excited monday morning ready to kick more ass. That’s how you stay passionate.

  1. swindsor posted this
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