Having watched a few startups closely, I have come to realize that a founder’s biggest struggle is not in getting funded, getting traction, motivating your team, or something else. It’s figuring out whether what you are doing is worth doing, and in almost all cases, it turns out to be impossible.
Take the oft-quoted advice of “Do not quit”. We are told that we shouldn’t quit because the goal is just a few inches beyond our grasp, that there’s dazzling light right around the corner. This advice is read and applied by both types of founders: those who are solving real problems and trying to build something solid, and those in the me-too, quick-money race.
As a founder, the biggest challenge lies in figuring out which side you’re on. And if you realize you’re a me-too, quit before it’s too late. But like I said, it’s impossible for a founder to realize that. Because other than what they are doing, their circumstances are identical: they are struggling with their idea, nobody believes in them, and their families think they are idiots. So if a founder were to look at these symptoms and then compare his life to that of, say, Jack Ma of early days, he’d reason, “I just need to keep going. Like Jack Ma’s, my ideas seem worthless to these people, but one day I’ll show the world”.
Except that it won’t work. The realization may set in after a year, or maybe five years, but it will set in. Unless a founder works his hardest at removing delusion from his thinking, the chances of success are tiny.