Why You Should Avoid Your Peers

I tell folks to stop joining all these local ‘startup clubs’ that popped up during the glory years of easy money and low barriers to entry. 

Virtually all of them were created and/or funded by the investor community as an easy, local watch list. Mostly angels. They need many folks to burn through to find maybe 3-4 good targets.

The reason I tell you to avoid these groups is not that investors skulk around at the meetings. It’s that 90%+ of the people who show up are either a) not full-time and still on the fence or b) in Phase 1 (i.e., <$500,000 in revenue). The folks in Phase 1 basically don’t know what they are doing for the most part. They might know a few tactical things that you don’t. But, they can not form a meaningful role model for you to get up the Ramp. 

If you have siblings, you know where I’m headed with this. Your older sister or brother taught you at least one thing you would have learned much, much later. Young siblings look up to their older ones. This is a natural behavior for social animals. 

As a young child, you don’t look up to your age peers. You play with them. You find solace in their company. But learning and training are for your time with older folks. 

Unlike children, most of your founder peers will fail to develop their businesses. They will be out of business in five years or less. No startup club or accelerator has changed these odds (or released data to support such a claim). The folks who show up there have nothing to offer you but complaints, more stress, or idle happy talk. They are often looking for therapy, which is a task for professionals. 

Reflecting on the need to meet folks farther up the ramp (but not some ‘suit’ from BigCo), please ask yourself one question:

Did you start a company to qualify for a community, or are you focused on building a business?

Know the difference between continuing to run your company as a community merit badge vs. driving business performance without any applause or validation except from the market.

The ironic consequence of gaining motivation to continue from a local club is that it distracts you from the key external audience, the only one that matters: your fans. 

If you want to learn, hang out with successful founders ahead of you on the Ramp. They will push you to improve and stay focused.

If you need motivation, hang out with your fans, not your peers.

Dr. James Richardson

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