John Petersen

Do Something

How many times have we heard this story? I am going to build a successful startup. First I need to raise money. But before investors will give me money, I need to get traction. In order to get traction, I need a really good product. And in order to get a good product, I need to raise money.

It’s the modern day tragedy of the wantrepreneur.


A wantrepreneur is a person who wants to be successful more than they want to put in the effort required to be successful. They make excuses. They’d rather play pingpong than solve a difficult problem. They’re streaming movies during the day hogging up all the office bandwidth. They go to every networking event to avoid doing real work. They’re more interested in telling people that they are the founder of a startup than actually building their startup.

There are many reasons to love and respect Gary Vaynerchuk — this video being one of them — but he sent out this tweet that should really resonate with all of us:


This is the anti-wantrepreneur mantra. Don’t tell me. Show me.

No Excuses

If you really want to build something significant and worthy of investment, you have to actually build something. I know it sounds crazy, and I know it opens this up to a million excuses:

  • I don’t know anything about coding
  • I not a designer
  • I’m a product guy / business woman / growth hacker
  • I need a technical cofounder

Bullshit. You just have an excuse. You need to start building, executing and taking action.

You don’t need to build a fully functioning and beautifully designed website or mobile app. You can launch a business with a free Tumblr blog. You can build a very nice website on Squarespace with no coding or design experience whatsoever and be up and running in a weekend. You can run Craigslist ads and manually match buyers and sellers. There a infinite things you can and should be doing instead of telling people about what you are going to do.

Shut Up

Ken Lerer said it best in a recent conversation:

“I think most companies should shut up until they have something to say.”

But wait, you might say… “I need press in order to get the word out. I just raised my seed round. I need to get as much coverage as I possible can. This is my time to shine.” Stop it. Just stop. There were 1,749 companies who raised a seed round of financing in 2012. How many of them can you name? How many are even still around? Yes, startups are really freaking hard. I’m not saying they’re not. I’m just saying that I (along with most other people) am impressed by action, not empty words.

When the time is right, you’ll get the press you deserve. But if you think that getting a mention in a TechCrunch article is going to drive explosive adoption of your product, you are sadly mistaken. A solid, well written press placement might get you a few thousand hits on a given day. Of those few thousand visitors, you might be able to pull a few hundred signups or email addresses if you are very lucky / good. That’s pretty much as good as it will get. What happens when those new users sign up and never come back? Even worse, what happens when they don’t like the product?

You can see why a user acquisition strategy of getting lots of press isn’t ideal. The same thing goes for attending every networking event, pitch event, or anything else that doesn’t involve you building something or getting feedback from your users. Stop telling and start showing.

Earn It

Reece Pacheco said it best the morning after the funding announcement for Shelby.tv.

“Expect nothing. Earn everything.”

Shelby had a lot to celebrate. They were part of the first NYC TechStars class. They were featured in the Bloomberg reality TV show series. They just raised $1.5 million. But Reece and Shelby weren’t popping champaign and kicking back. They knew that this was just one stepping stone in a long road to success. You certainly should celebrate your successes. This stuff is really hard. When you score a big win you should take time to recognize that, but stay focused and get right back on track.

A lot of people talk a good game. Very few of them actually do something about it. Don’t try to convince me. Execute. Show me. Do something.

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