Between failure and Facebook

Recently, a friend was trying to recruit a programmer to join his early-stage startup. The programmer had just graduated from college and his impression of startups was shaped mostly by popular media. His main concern, he said, was: “What if we end up being the next MySpace instead of the next Facebook?”.

Of course, for those of us immersed in startup world, creating the next MySpace would be considered a huge success. MySpace was once the most visited website in the US and was acquired for $580M. It flamed out later under its corporate owner, but that happens to a lot of great startups.

Mainstream culture seems to depict startups as either being complete failures where everyone loses their shirts or else huge hits like Facebook. But the reality, as usual, lies in the middle: in 2010, according to Dow Jones, there were 522 venture-backed exits with a combined exit value of $53 billion – implying an average exit price of around $100M.

The best thing about startups is you get to work with great people on interesting projects, and can be successful by conventional metrics, even if no one outside of tech has ever heard of you or what you’ve built. There’s great stuff between failure and Facebook.

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