Dreamers and doers

I know a lot of people that have started their own company, and I have even more anecdotes from forums and other sites on the web. I’ve noticed that there are two types of entrepreneurs. The dreamers and the doers.

Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg.com showing the dreamers how to run a company

The dreamers often have a romantic view of what it means to be an entrepreneur. They’ve seen Kevin Rose of Digg fame, they’ve seen Larry and Sergey and they think they can do it too. When they read about what made the stars what they are all they see is the success story that they want to be. They’re helped along by the fact that successful founders rarely tell you about the pain they went trough, the long nights and the futile attempts at stardom they encountered before their eventual success. And since very few people that didn’t make it for one reason or another have the guts to tell the world about it you’ll probably never read about the outright failures. These are the vast majority.

The dreamers get their cues from secondary sources, PR material, and success stories posted on Techcrunch so they have a skewed view of what it takes to do a startup. The media, the blogs and almost all other sources of information are heavily biased towards the successes. Who wants to write about the failures? Who wants to write about the boring stuff Kevin Rose does every day to keep Digg alive, let alone the countless hours he presumably spent getting it to where it is today? Stories about fuck-you money, private planes, champagne and oysters are much more fun. This bias in information gives the dreamers a wrong view of what doing a startup is all about, and what it takes to succeed.

The problem, of course, is that this is wrong. Doing a startup is hard. Your chances of success aren’t good. A great idea is simply a starting point. The doers know this. They know that the odds are stacked against them and that they have to work hard just to survive. They know that a great company is built one customer at a time, and often requires years of hard work before it becomes successful. They know, and more importantly they act. They get stuff done. 99% of the work required in a startup isn’t sexy, but they know that if they don’t do it nobody will. They sweep the floors and clean the toilets.

So how do you know the difference between a dreamer and a doer? Here are some cues.

  • Dreamers think the primary ingredient in a startup is a good idea. Doers know the primary ingredient is hard work.
  • Dreamers say “wouldn’t it be cool if…” Doers say “I’ve tested this cool….”
  • Dreamers talk about grand ideas. Doers iterate their way to a grand idea.
  • Dreamers go to conferences, meetups and other events to talk about their great startup. Doers stay at home and finish one more thing or close one more deal.
  • Dreamers think that if you build it they will come. Doers know that if you sell it they might buy.
  • Dreamers think it’s a straight road to stardom. Doers know it isn’t.
  • Dreamers always have one more feature to do before launch.Doers launch when it’s good enough.
  • Dreamers think that getting mentioned on techcrunch will make their company successful. Doers see it as a nice addition to their marketingmix.

Most entrepreneurs start out as dreamers. After all, the dream of freedom, riches, oysters and champagne are appealing. I would even say that you need to have a bit of a dreamer in you to even attempt to do a startup. But the pragmatic dreamers soon realise the extent of what they have gotten themselves into and become doers. They realise that companies are built one small step at a time. And they get to work.

If you’re looking to found, join or invest in a startup the distinction between dreamers and doers is important. doers will deliver results, dreamers will deliver hot air.

Avoid the dreamers.

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Comments

  1. Great post !

    Are you saying dreamers can’t get any job in a startup? What should they do as a living?

    In my opinion, a duo dreamer-doer at the head of a startup may be a successful receipe.

    Reply
  2. I’m in my late 20′s and one of the life lessons I’ve learned lately is the people who talk the most about what they are doing tend to accomplish the least.

    Of course everyone needs to sell themself/their business but doing the work comes first.

    Reply

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