Who says startups are easy

A blog post by Fred Wilson, undoubtedly the king of early stage consumer web investing (Twitter, Tumblr, Etsy, Foursqaure, Zynga and Kickstarter), has many folks wringing their hands about consumer Internet investments and extolling the virtues of enterprise or more business focused companies. (It is only a matter of time, before it becomes a fad too, but let’s leave it for another day.)

I am just a little surprised that it has taken people this long to realize that doing a startup in this day and age is a massive problem. It is not just about the money — it is the increased attention diffusion which is a problem. I have been talking about this for a long time. Last year, I wrote about the lack of second chances on the modern, post-mobile Internet.

The economics of attention is much more ruthless and unforgiving than the real economic underpinning of a product. Just as it is hard for a movie to recover from a bad opening weekend, today’s “apps” lose if they don’t make a good first impression.

Today with the increased competition and attention diffusion, it is becoming much harder to be a consumer web startups. And in order to win, the founders need to make all the right bets, all the time, or else they will find themselves on road to nowhere. And that is why I thought that doing a startup in today’s environment was much tougher than most people realize. In December 2011, I told the attendees of Hackfwd in Berlin the same thing. Here is a video of that talk and also, my presentation, that is now on Slideshare.

Who says startups are easy from Om Malik


  1. Akshita Ganesh (@akshitag) says:

    January 27th, 2014 at 10:52 pm Reply

    This makes me wonder even more whether the importance of learning to code is lesser. Now since everybody can code, and building a product is extremely simple – the key differentiating skill is being able to build a business. Then, why this frenzy to learn to code?

  2. Rajiv Walia says:

    January 26th, 2014 at 10:01 am Reply

    The start-up success stories may motivate you to quit your job and focus on your start up. My friend and I got together for a activity based social network, spent $100k, invested 2 years.. and all went kaput! The website could not just pick up. We had outsourced development to india. We reached out to all, Om, Naveen S, Fred W.. you name it, we sent an email requesting for feedback. We just failed and lost chunk of our savings, leave alone family being deprived of our time. Our lessons learned:
    – You have to be a programer and that too a good one. Technical knowledge is mandatory for the founders.
    – Your product has to change according to public response.
    – Avoid reading success stories on techcrunch etc etc, focus on your product product product.
    – Never ever think just because your idea is unique your product will be viral. Our idea is still unique but all the project plans have been recycled by Waste Management already!
    – There is no formula for a start up. It just clicks and spreads if the need is exponential.

    We are now back to our jobs and we know we will not invest or work in any start up again :( not until we are 100% in control of the product. Good Luck to all!


  3. Rex Hammock (@R) says:

    December 1st, 2012 at 1:16 pm Reply

    While it may have never been harder to create an interent startup that Fred Wilson may be interested in funding, it’s never been easier for a business that has just started to tap into the resources the internet — that help make success possible.

  4. Andrew Cunningham says:

    November 28th, 2012 at 4:41 pm Reply

    Agree entirely Om. I’m certainly seeing the challenge with my startup, Zarfo.com. We have been slowly building and learning from our members but starting web focused and without an iOS app has been detrimental to our consumer cause. We are pivoting to corporate/enterprise at the moment so we can continue staying relevant. We’re introducing subscription as well. It’s a tough time to launch a start up!

  5. bhanuk says:

    November 28th, 2012 at 1:27 pm Reply

    Great presentation as always Om

  6. chetansharma (@chetansharma) says:

    November 26th, 2012 at 10:04 pm Reply

    you did a powerpoint?

    1. Om Malik says:

      November 27th, 2012 at 6:55 am Reply

      Keynote chetan :-)

  7. ceocorus says:

    November 25th, 2012 at 11:57 pm Reply

    Clearly this is the meme of the month. I think your’s, Fred’s and Dave McClure’s view whilst seemingly at odds are all accurate. Audience size is up. Getting attention is harder and costs are down. I think the real issue is that it’s harder to get on the radar. As Chris Dixon mused – 10 million is the new 1 million.

    1. Om Malik says:

      November 26th, 2012 at 7:11 am Reply


      I am making a simple point — have been for a year — just because it is easier to start a company doesn’t mean it is any easier to build a business and that isn’t going yo change and in fact become harder. So every decision has to be precise and well thought out.

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