Money, killing the fun part of a startup

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” -Steve Jobs said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 1993

by Forrest Sheng Bao

I am interested in startups. I have a couple [of] ideas and energetic friends who may join me if I begin. But I never take any action.

The reason is very simple, a startup will soon lose its fun part when people start thinking about monetization.

A lot of people watched Facebook's F8 yesterday. I was kinda disappointed. I couldn't see anything wonderful or fun or awesome there. Actually, I was sorta pissed off when I saw several speakers dressing in suits. Thank God, Mark was wearing a T-shirt. New features of Facebook announced on F8 have little technology awesomeness. They only keep people from getting bored about Facebook. The ultimate goal of doing those, to the best of my intuition, is to make a lot of money from Wall Street investors in the potential IPO - because Google+ does not have so many users as of now.

(Facebook's News Feed ranking algorithm, or their "People you may know" algorithm do not work very well, really.)

When the focus of a startup shifts to making money from building something really cool, there is no fun at all. I am not saying that a startup should not make money. But money really shouldn't be the dominant focus.

Money cannot buy everything. Money cannot buy fun. Fun in my life is a big reason I haven't committed suicide, seriously. Building something technologically creative and advancing is the fun part of a startup to me and that's the main reason I dream about my startup.

Therefore, if I begin a startup, I will never pursue going to NASDAQ. Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu Linux, has shown me a good example. However, on the other side, Google has also shown me a good example after going public. Google is doing a lot of cool things, such as free hosting to open source projects at Google Code - for many small projects, Google Code is more suitable than SourceForge.

When I have some money, I'll do something that will shape the world better, rather than turning money into expensive wine on the dinner table of the rich. Maybe a hungry kid in Africa needs a spoon of mashed potato more than how much a millionaire needs a glass of 100-year-old wine.

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