swombat.com

daily articles for founders

Who is swombat.com for?

Like any long-term venture, the goals of swombat.com have changed over time.

When I started, I just wanted to focus on providing a filtering mechanism for all the great startup articles out there, to separate the entreporn from the really good stuff, and to enable busy entrepreneurs to stay on top of the best, latest ideas without having to spend hours every day browsing a collection of websites and RSS feeds.

Then, over time, I saw there was a problem with this approach: most start-up advice is valuable for a very long time - not just the few days or months after it's published. Paul Graham's articles are as worthwhile today as they were 3 years ago. So I launched the Founder's Library and set up an automated twitter feed to push forward these pieces of evergreen content.

Even more importantly, I realised some time in the last month that although highlighting other people's great articles is fun and worth continuing, I have a lot of thoughts, ideas and advice that I'd like to communicate, for three reasons: first, and most important, it might help someone who needs that particular idea; secondly, it helps me to formulate those ideas more clearly to myself; thirdly, accruing those ideas in this place might form the material for a book (yes, I do want to put those ideas into a book sometime). So, there'll be more of a continuous flow of full-length articles going forward.

My understanding will, of course, continue to evolve. But the question I'm answering in this post is, where am I now? And, more importantly, what does this mean for whether you will derive value from subscribing to this site (by RSS or email)?

Focus

To be effective, swombat.com requires some level of content focus. Articles about how to fire an executive in a late-stage, well funded, expanding startup may be highly interesting - and I am sure that Ben Horowitz's advice is invaluable when it comes at the right time - but if you're fighting to get your MVP out the door and achieve early traction, it's just a distraction, no better than counting your chickens before they're hatched.

Focus should of course be driven by what I've done and achieved myself. Naturally, the most insightful comments I can make are about things I've experienced directly. A lot of my experience is at the early stages of a company's existence. At the same time, through GrantTree I am gaining a lot more experience of a wider variety of businesses, so the breadth of advice I feel confident in giving continually grows. Still, my roots are in the early stage.

Luckily, I think that's where most of the problems are. That's where it's possible to add most value. The transition between "the normal world" and the crazy world of startups is tough on pretty much everyone. I have yet to hear anyone declare "I had no problem switching from my banking job to running my own startup". Everyone seems to come out of this with a bloody nose, and for a good reason: it's really hard.

The beginner entrepreneur

This, then, is my target audience with these articles: the entrepreneur who is around the transition point from doing something else, to running their own business. You might still be in school, or you might be slaving away in a consulting company or some other corporate paymaster. You might have made the leap already (and be well on the way to smashing into the ground painfully), and might even have managed to conjure up a parachute so as to land more softly.

What's in common between all these scenarios is you want to run your own business, and you're not yet confident in your abilities to do so. You want it to be a startup (technical or not), i.e. you want it to grow and make you a successful entrepreneur.

The aim of this site is to help you build the skills that you need to achieve this independence, and, equally importantly, to build the skills to avoid the worst disasters. It's easy to fail really hard at the transition to running your own business. Most of those failure modes are avoidable. My goal is to reduce the chances that you'll fail to make the transition and break teeth in the process.

This is an important distinction. Many startup advice sites are about how to "make it big", how to build a huge success and, to paraphrase Paul Graham, to condense a 40-years career in 10 or less years of intense startup insanity. Using my success scale, those are "wealth" or "mega-wealth" successes, and they are needed to sustain the VC/investor industry, and so it's fair enough that this is the type of startup they want to encourage.

However, I believe that there is room for a great many businesses which, while not world-changing or billionaire-creating, enable smart, intelligent, driven people to gain control of their life, achieve a comfortable level of wealth, and create jobs and other benefits for society without becoming world-class successes. Most people would like a Facebook-level success if they can get it, but I think many would be satisfied with comfortable success, at least as a stepping stone.

I also happen to believe that if there are more baseline successful entrepreneurs out there, there will be more huge successes too. Currently, huge successes are largely based on luck, because most entrepreneurs faced with a facebook-like opportunity fumble and fail at the very basics of running a business. If there are many more competent entrepreneurs out there, there will also be more opportunities being exploited successfully (though they may very well not need investors' assistance to do so).

So, this is what my writing, and the articles that I link to, will be focusing on: helping people make the transition and achieve at least a moderate level of success, so that they can continue being entrepreneurs for as long as they please.


More from the library:
Only work on single-miracle startups
Entrepreneurship is the safest career
Power blogging hour: an approach to startup blogs