Reasons To Do a Startup

Apr 4, 2023

On Patrick Collison’s (the co-founder and CEO of Stripe) personal site, he has a page for “Advice.” It provides some life advice for readers aged 10-20, but under the 20-30 section, he puts, “If you're 20–30: I don't know yet. I plan to think about this when I'm 35-40.” I call this the Collison Principle of Advice:

Don't give advice until enough time has passed to gain proper perspective and understanding

So on the topic of “Reasons to Start a Startup,” I defer to the experts. I have my reasons, but I’ll have to wait a few years (at least) to dispense that advice. So here are Marc Andreessen, Paul Graham, and Elad Gil’s thoughts on the topic — startup veterans who have both started companies and met and evaluated thousands of startup founders.

Good reasons to do a startup (Marc Andreessen, Why not to do a startup)

  • The opportunity to be in control of your own destiny
  • The opportunity to create something new
  • The chance to have an impact on the world
  • The ability to create your ideal culture and work with a dream team of people you get to assemble yourself.
  • Money

Reasons to not do a startup (Marc Andreessen, Why not to do a startup)

  • Emotional rollercoaster
  • Nothing happens unless you make it happen
  • “Hiring is a huge pain in the ass.”
  • Time commitment
  • It’s really easy for a startup to go sideways

Forms of desperation that motivate founders to start companies (Elad Gil, Startups are an act of desperation):

  • Career desperation — Allow people early or stuck in their careers to jump a few steps ahead
  • Financial desperation — Condense decades of salary into a shorter period
  • Product or mission desperation — Founders who want something to exist in the world
  • Desperation to do something big or important and to avoid wasted time — “make a dent in the universe.”
  • Revenge vs. the Arena — Founders who have something to prove

Bad reasons to avoid doing a startup (Paul Graham, Why To Not Not Start a Startup)

  • Too young
  • Too inexperienced
  • Not smart enough
  • Know nothing about business
  • No idea
  • No room for more startups
  • Don’t realize what you’re avoiding
  • Parents want you to be a doctor
  • A job is the default

Good reasons not to avoid doing a startup (Paul Graham, Why To Not Not Start a Startup)

  • Not determined enough
  • No cofounder
  • Family to support
  • Independently wealthy
  • Not ready for commitment (3-4 years minimum)
  • Need for structure
  • Fear of uncertainty