The Danger of Celebritizing Entrepreneurship

Another great article by Max Marmer in HBR. I think his argument applies not only to technology entrepreneurship, but also social entrepreneurs. I particularly like the suggestions on identifying start-up cycle phases and calibrating investments. 

“The second type of Starstruck Entrepreneur is far more dangerous. This type includes engineers and designers who have a lot of talent for building technology products, but, because they’ve been infected by celebritization hype, limit their ambitions to being able to say, “Hi, I’m the Founder and CEO of Self-Aggrandizing Apps.” So instead of applying their talents to a company that is actually poised to solve an important problem and become a transformational company, they build another vapid iPhone app that nobody wants. As a result, many potentially transformational startups are inflicted with dysfunctional teams as a result of the depleted hiring pool. 

We need to quarantine the Starstruck Virus before it leads to an epidemic facepalms — or worse. The reason the Starstuck Virus is so deadly is that it ends up severely circumscribing both the economic potential and societal impact of entrepreneurship by suffocating the early-stage startup ecosystem with increased noise, increased distractions, corrupted motivations and misapplied of talent.

Methodologically speaking, both investors and entrepreneurs need to get better at recognizing where companies are in the startup lifecycle and let results speaks for themselves. (This subject is something the Startup Genome has covered in depth). Instead of over-investing as investors often do, investors can invest appropriate amounts so that entrepreneurs don’t have so much rope they end up hanging themselves. And entrepreneurs can set better expectations for themselves about validating whether people do — miraculously — want another mediocre to-do list app. This approach is practical and avoids unrealistic authoritarianism, like implying people shouldn’t have the right to start a company. This does not tell Starstruck Entrepreneurs they can’t pursue their flights of fancy; it simply lets gravity quickly pull them and their Hollywood halos back to reality, and towards work that actually matters. This cleans out the junk in the startup ecosystem — an ecosystem that powers tomorrow’s economic future.

It’s not about the fame, glory or money. It’s about building products that transform the world and drive the humanity forward.”

The Danger of Celebritizing Entrepreneurship

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