Paul Graham is a software guy whose technology paved the way for making internet purchasing possible. He became wealthy selling to Yahoo and went on to fund start-ups. He also writes insightful essays on the creative and business processes faced by people establishing new ventures. Although his focus is on tech start-ups his thoughts are far-sighted enough to apply to anyone involved in any creative endeavour where they are trying to make it work.
I have quoted here from Paul’s writings some remarks which resonate with my experience as a music-maker. Where I am, no one has the kind of wisdom he has, or if they do they don't share it. Being able to access intelligence like this across a divide is lifeblood to me. Such is the value of the internet.
advice for creative entrepreneurs
commentary • 15.01.12
On getting a venture going:
• The number one thing not to do is other things. Nothing kills like distractions. The worst type are those that pay money.
On the importance of being around like minds:
• Most people who did great things were clumped together in a few places where that sort of thing was done at the time.
• You get discouraged when no one around you cares about the same things you do.
I’ve spent a lot of energy over years in the tortuous process of raising money. Sometimes I succeeded, more often I didn’t. Sometimes it took so long to succeed that by the time the money was raised I was so demoralised the last thing I felt like doing was the venture itself. No one, especially the financers themselves, seemed to be aware that might even be a problem. Paul does.
Here he is on the perils of trying to get funding:
• What kills you is the disappointment. And the lower your expectations, the harder it is to be disappointed.
• When it comes to deals, you have to consciously turn off your everyday intuitions and become pathologically cynical.
• Don’t take rejection personally. The worst case scenario is the long no, the no that comes after months of meetings.
• Most investors have no idea how dangerous they are. They’d be surprised to hear that raising money from them is something that has to be treated as a threat to a company’s survival.
There are people who make and there are people who manage and these jobs require different mindsets. I know that as a maker you need the freedom to flow.
Paul talks about how one meeting in a day can ruin the flow:
• A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon. I find one meeting can sometimes affect a whole day. A meeting commonly blows at least half a day, by breaking up a morning or afternoon. But in addition there’s sometimes a cascading effect. If I know the afternoon is going to be broken up, I’m slightly less likely to start something ambitious in the morning. I know this may sound oversensitive, but if you’re a maker, think of your own case. Don’t your spirits rise at the thought of having an entire day free to work, with no appointments at all? Well, that means your spirits are correspondingly depressed when you don’t. And ambitious projects are by definition close to the limits of your capacity. A small decrease in morale is enough to kill them off.
On how working for yourself is more natural than being employed:
• If you’re not allowed to implement new ideas, you stop having them.
• It will always suck to work for large organisations, and the larger the organisation, the more it will suck.
On the drive required for success:
• Determination implies your willfulness is balanced by discipline. The more willful you are, the more disciplined you have to be.
• One reason the young sometimes succeed where the old fail is that they don’t realise how incompetent they are.
• Achievements tend to increase your ambition.
• Most types of work have aspects one doesn’t like, because most types of work consist of doing things for other people, and it’s very unlikely that the tasks imposed by their needs will happen to align exactly with what you want to do.