Your passion should be the core of your motivation – but that does not mean it is enough


tl;dr: Finding your true passion should be on top of your todo list. Yet it does not mean applying it blindly to everything around you, especially if you are a startup. It needs to be put into perspective and like any talent, you need to feed it and train it.

Christoph Raethke has written a good post over at Venture Village "The sweet poison of the internet: why following your passion is bad for business".  I am picking out one specific part of it, his notion of “you need to steer people away from their passion” to something more manageable. I disagree with this. 

Now, I naturally can’t say that none of them will succeed in building a sustainable business. But it is much, much more unlikely than in sound, profitable and maybe less passion-inspiring industries. Which is why, and that’s the main message here, more people need to eschew the “P” word and, when talking to somebody passionately wanting to set up music startup X, sports app Y, or foodie portal Z, steer him away from sweet poison. And mentor the guy not on how to best put his idea into practice, but on letting it go and focus his passion on something that might actually work.

Is passion necessary to thrive and should it be encouraged? Absolutely. But you need to understand what the core of your passion is and how to apply that to a market you researched properly. And complement yourself with people in the areas of expertise you are not good at.

The standard model is the artist, also mentioned in the piece. The problem is not that musicians per se are starving. The problem is that some of them plain suck at business. In the very old days you had a mäzen, a sponsor. They paid you and you did what you where good at. Or you got a business manager. You created and they looked out for you business wise. They usually where bad at what you where doing and that is fine – because you did not hire them to be another artist.

The second is not putting in the work.
To only want the glamorous parts but not doing the basics and covering the bases.  I love the part of the presentation of Sascha Pallenberg given 2-3 years ago at republica. "Who here wants to earn money with their blog? All of you? Good. Who here works 7-8 hours on their blog? Some, okay. Per day? Well, that is the reason you are not earning money."

Again, not something you have to do yourself, it is better to hire and outsource this. And for that, no matter how passionate you are, you need to be able to manage people and skills as well as projects for this to run successful. Or again hire somebody who does it for you. This is the moment you should ask yourself that if you got an assistant today to work, could you hand over your startup mail box or is that your personal mail box as well?

Not taking care of the business side in a case of inflated ego and "oh but I am so smart I know what to do" is one part of the problem in startup land. (Not taking care of the necessary technical skills another.) Planning, processing, budgeting are part of that too. Managing growth is another area.

The third part is looking at your competition.
I can decide today, that I want to be a <insert your favorite sport here> and go for the olympics 2016. I cannot see any sport on that list where I would have even a simple chance except being a spectator to participate in the next olympics. It does not matter if you are the umpteenth startups for topic X, if you are better than the rest, you will succeed.

And that includes functionality. I call that the airbag problem. If you come out with a new car today which does not have airbags, it does not fly to say "oh we are not there yet, but we may provide that in the future". The market has decided they want airbags, so if you present a new car, that is the expected minimum.

The fourth part is the available market and what people are willing to pay for.
The mentioned music example does not mean that music is not a business – there are enough people who earn money with their music. It is just not everybody.  "We don’t like paypal we rather go with X" is fine – but then you need to realize that people are not willing to go to you because your ease of use is not there. Don’t have paypal? Well, this is the reason rise of start-ups bc or social logins.

People do not want to have yet another login, they want to login with their facebook account. Your designer does not like the look of that? Well, putting in yet another registration is not the price the customer is willing to pay.

"Money is earned where need has buying power"

A passion is not your current and only startup, a passion is a thing you cannot do without in your daily life. It is something you always go back to, how you see the world around you.

And if your startup idea does not make you successful although you put in the work and effort, then you maybe should put in more effort into figuring out how your passion full fills a need in the market.


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