What is a startup?

A startup is a new company, usually less than three years old. It can have anywhere from $500 personal cash to $1.5MM of venture capital in the bank. Startups are unforgiving beasts. They’ll eat you alive if you let them, but they can also fund your retirement and yield you enough cash to buy three houses.

Most startups have one to four founders, two to ten employees, three advisors, maybe three investors if they’re lucky. In many cases, your first investors will be family members or other folks who respond enthusiastically to guilt. If you do not know what guilt is, just ask your Jewish and Catholic friends. We all grew up on chicken soup, Wheaties, and the kind of guilt that would make your skin crawl.

Startups are also hotbeds for hilarity, chaos and miscommunication. You’ll make friends, lose friends, lose money and eventually find yourself working at Costco, in a good way. Up until the final decree of your divorce and seconds before your nervous breakdown, it’ll be a great ride, roughly ten minutes. Startup founders should be prepared for roller coaster rides, chock-full of swinging-door relationships, epic life lessons and excruciating, demoralizing ass-kickings.

Startups usually begin with $20,000 “First Money” from Mom, Dad, best friend Timmy or stranger Bob. After First Money, the company’s founders will continue to sink their own cash into the venture, which they’ll do until long-after they’re bankrupt and living at the Y. This is because most founders are too embarrassed to admit that their company failed just ten minutes after you gave them your life savings.

Most startup founders are so filled with their own essence, that they think that they’re going to be on CNN before the end of the week, when the truth is, they’ll barely make it out of their moms’ basements. It takes a mature person to balance enthusiasm with preparedness.

While anybody can start a company, it will take dedicated founders, stable and sober, each with expertise in the company’s market category, to build a ship that’s sustainable and relevant. Cute marketing hooks, free beer and hipster t-shirts only go so far.

The best founders avoid the traps of believing their own bullshit. A surefire way to keep yourself in check is to land quality mentors and advisors. They’ll help you live in a grounded reality rather than in the contrived startup theme park that you’ve built in your head.

Be passionate about your startup. Your relentless passion can be the deciding ingredient that tips investors in your favor. Imagine a dispassionate car salesman, a passive prostitute, or an unassertive football player. Silly, right? Nut up and get excited or go get fitted for a monogrammed barista outfit. Be deeply motivated and go for the gold!