Think Big or Think Little?


Chicago is different than the Valley.  Many of the businesses here are based on finding product/market fit and revenue.  They aren’t about building viral, free user bases.  Businesses like that grow slower because not only do they have to engineer the back end, but they need really good marketing out in front to acquire those customers.

I was lecturing at the University of Illinois earlier this week and we were talking about economic incentives around entrepreneurship.  When you hear all these stories about billion dollar unicorns, it can make you salivate with greed.  “Man, they just got hyper rich”.  That’s a very human emotion.

In the trading pits, we’d see it happen all the time.  A lot of the green on the trading floor was envy.

However, most of the time, startup companies are not rocket ships.  They are long term projects.  Daily grind day after day after day. day.  After day.  Building a company is fun, rewarding, but it’s not easy.

At the outset, you might have a billion dollar company and you might not.  Nobody knows.  If you raise a seed round, it’s likely your investors think you have a unicorn on your hands but that’s because the risk/reward they need to write a check depends on some of the companies being blow out companies.   Don’t worry about what they think.

How do you know?  It’s very hard to tell.  It’s also something you shouldn’t worry about.  Instead, concentrate on building a company that creates a great product that services customer needs and is loved.  At each round of fundraising, you will be able to make a binary decision about whether to go forward and continue to build, or find a buyer for your firm.  As you build your company, you will learn things about the market you didn’t know before.  It might create new opportunities that allow you to get really big-or what you learn might make you decide to stay focused.

While you are building your company, the world changes around you as well.  By definition, a startup should be ahead of the curve. That means the world might have to catch up to your product and what used to look like a smallish company becomes gigantic.