The startup world today loves hacks. Growth hacks. Venture hacks. Social hacks.
The result ends up being a focus on the means, rather than the ends. And I think that’s a shame.
In one sense, hacking a startup is a great thing. Who doesn’t want to
get rich quick? I certainly wouldn’t turn down easy money.
in another sense, it’s a terrible thing. One of the reasons so many
people in Silicon Valley view Wall Street with contempt is that we see
the hedge fund guys as arbitragers who don’t add value, yet make buckets
of money simply by pushing paper around.
Today, I was debating
with a friend about a particular company. I was created in a blaze of
hype, applied a lot of growth hacks (many of which I consider deceptive
and bad for the user), and sold to a public company for a price that
made its investors a tidy profit, and its founders wealthy. (Loyal
Twitter followers can guess the identity of this company)
admired their skill, which I freely acknowledged. But I feel like their
startup is like the Wall Street idea of entrepreneurship–pull a bunch
of levers and make a mint without ever creating value for users.
Om Malik approached this issue from a different angle when discussing Airtime and Color, two wildly hyped yet unsuccessful ventures:
Om sums it up very well:
Airtime suffers the same malaise as Color, the other liberally-funded
startup: they don’t really solve a problem that is acute or hasn’t been
solved before….It doesn’t matter who you were, how great your resume
is and how many billions you have in the bank.
Both Color and
Airtime seem like startups that were created to enrich their founders
and/or keep them relevant, not to solve a real problem.
Valley is special because we sometimes manage to change the world. And
that happens when we focus on real problems. When we get caught up in
how much we raised, or how we were able to use hacks to drive growth
without building a great product, we’re no better than the people we
revile as vampire squid.