There’s No Perfect Formula for Building a Successful Startup, So Stop Looking for One.


There’s a lot of talk in the startup space these days about trying to find a “formula” for successfully launching a company. It started with the Lean Startup Movement (which is a fantastic book, not hatin’), but it’s turned into this crazy quest for some magic bullet.

It doesn’t work that way.

I haven’t launched multiple companies. I’ve never closed a round of funding by myself. I haven’t hired anyone and been personally responsible for making sure that person eats. 

But I do have the great fortune of meeting with successful, brilliant starters every single day, and soaking up their stories of success, failure, hardship, and triumph. 

I’m an editor, but what I’m really good at (and passionate about) is pattern identification. One of those patterns, though, isn’t a formula for building a successful company. No two entrepreneurs I’ve ever met have built their companies the exact same way. 

That makes us all really uncomfortable. We want an easy answer. We want to know that if we just follow these 10 steps, we’ll have a profitable startup. 

But as with anything truly amazing and worth doing in life (falling in love, traveling the world, etc.), there isn’t a formula. In fact, it often works out a lot better if you don’t try so damn hard to create one and just work/enjoy your ass off, and let serendipity handle the rest. 

You end up happier, and the world has the space to work its magic on you and whatever you’re building. 

If you’re out there building anything, please know that what will make it special is not something you’ll find in a manual or bestseller somewhere. It’s in you already. 

Yes, you should learn from others successes and failures. Yes, you should look outside of your industry for ideas you can innovate into your own space. Yes, its useful to read well-written books and articles on building companies. 

But don’t let all of those things stop you from the most important thing, which is that nothing beats your gut instinct about something you’re super passionate about and driven to make a reality for the rest of the world. 

Stop looking for a formula. 

Start listening to yourself more.