Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #55

Are you too obsessed with other people's startups?

In the startup world, founders constantly compare themselves to all the other entrepreneurs trying to build their billion dollar unicorns… or lucrative side hustles… or whatever. But is it healthy? Is it helpful?

Honestly, you probably already know the answers to those questions. But do you know why they’re the answers? More importantly, do you know how to stop yourself from obsessing over what other people are accomplishing? You will after you’re done reading this issue of EOH!

By the end of the issue, you’ll also know why “don’t reinvent the wheel” is terrible advice for entrepreneurs. And, in the Q&A, you’ll learn why startup founders always get recruited to other companies and how to respond if/when you get an offer.

In other words, it’s a good issue. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed pulling it together! Of course, if you do, you know what I’m going to ask…

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-Aaron


How I Learned to Stop Obsessing About Other Startups and Focus on Building My Own Company

Are you constantly keeping tabs on what other startups are doing? The only people you help by comparing yourself to your competition is your competition.



Why I Teach Entrepreneurs to Keep Reinventing Wheels

"Don't reinvent the wheel" isn't a good reason not to pursue a startup. In fact, it might be the best reason to launch one. Do you know why? If not, read this...


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Office Hours Q&A

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QUESTION:

Dear Aaron,

I feel like I’ve got a unique offer, and I’m not sure the best way to go forward with it.

My co-founder and I have been working on our startup for about a year now. We got introduced to someone with a lot more resources who’s trying to basically do the same thing, and he wants us to merge companies.

He’s presenting it as a merger, but it honestly seems more like he’s hiring us to work for him even though we’d get some equity in the merged company.

On one hand, it feels a bit like giving up. On the other hand, it would be nice to have more resources and a steady paycheck for doing a lot of the same things, which is basically what he’s offering.

Did you ever experience this? How would you decide to continue on your own or merge with a competitor?

- Alec

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I wanted to answer this question publicly because I feel like it’s a more common scenario than entrepreneurs realize.

During your entrepreneurial journey, you’re going to be talking with lots of people interested in the same general problem space as you: potential investors; potential partners; potential customers; etc. While you’re likely talking with those people in order to get help with your startup, many of those people are thinking about the best way you might be able to help them. And, since they’re working in a similar space, one of the best ways you can help them is by working for them.

This happened often when I was building my startups. Lots of other companies tried to hire me. They never explicitly put it this way, but the gist was: “Stop wasting your time doing your own thing and come solve that really important problem you’re working on for a real company like mine.”

I never took any of those offers, but I’m not sure I made the right choice. In truth, I was power-hungry, selfish, and naive. I wanted to be in control, and I believed whatever way I was trying to build a company was the best way.

These days, I like to think I’d have a more nuanced perspective. I believe the purpose of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial action is to help people solve problems. Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem isn’t to build your solution. Instead, the best way to solve a problem is to help someone else build their solution.

In that sense, maybe merging with someone else and working together is a good idea.

But, of course, lots of caveats have to be applied. First, is the other person really in a better position to solve the problem than you? Is that person taking an approach you believe in and/or agree with? Will that person listen to you and treat you as a partner? Or is that person basically just trying to hire employees? If so, are you OK with being an employee rather than a key decision maker?

Also, what is fair compensation? You mention having already worked for a year. How much traction do you have? Is the other company buying any of your traction, or just you and your co-founder’s services? What are you getting in return? And how does what you’re getting in return relate to your personal and professional goals in life?

As with most questions, there’s not an easy “yes” or “no” answer to whether or not you should merge with another company, so what I really want to tell you is you’re not alone. Because you’re a scrappy founder hustling to build a startup, you probably seem like a smart, determined, thoughtful, talented potential employee to other people, and that’s going to make you a recruitment target.

As for whether or not you should take the current job offer… well… that’s a choice you have to make for yourself. But know that this probably won’t be the only opportunity. The longer you build companies, the more you’ll learn about business, and the more other companies are going to want to hire you. And, to be clear, that’s a good thing. It shows the value of an entrepreneurial education.

Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!