josh donaldson

As much as entrepreneurs need to be nurtured, it’s time to stop treating them like coddled children.

Much like parents who constantly encourage their children by saying “Good job!”, we’re doing the same thing with startups.

It doesn’t matter if their ideas, business models, technology or teams are weak or even stupid, everyone is afraid to tell them the blunt truth: Your idea sucks. There is too much competition. You need to stop because it is a waste of time.

Instead, we (including yours truly!) tell entrepreneurs to keep trying and that they shouldn’t be afraid to fail.

We tell them the road to success is paved with bumps, bruises, and potholes.

We tell them that being a startup entrepreneur is sexy and exciting.

We tell them to hang their shingle at a co-working space or an incubator to develop their half-baked ideas or products that have little chance of turning into a business.

Enough, already with being helicopter parents to startups!

We need to stop being so nice to wanna-be entrepreneurs. It’s time for honest and straightforward advice, rather than dancing around them because we don’t want to discourage or offend anyone.

Not being straight with entrepreneurs is absurd because it gives them false hope. Rather than forcing startups to make tough choices, we tell them to keep going and fight the good fight. We heap praise on entrepreneurs for simply showing up.

But as Toronto Blue Jays’ superstar Josh Donaldson said after his team was swept in a three-game series last year:

 This isn’t the ‘try’ league, this is the ‘get it done’ league. And you know, eventually they’re going to find people to get it done.

The world of startups is not a “try” game; it’s business.

You are developing products to create a business that attracts customers, sales, and profits. It is not about interesting ideas that magically turn into a business through hard work. Lots of people have the same ideas but they are smarter, faster and richer than you.

One of the biggest problems is startups are too easy to create. It doesn’t take a lot of money to slap up a Website and hire some developers on contract to create an online service or application. The barriers to entry are ridiculously low. It’s like throwing a party that anyone can attend.

There is a notion that startups are easy when the opposite it true. Startups involve long hours, a huge personal commitment and, at some point, money. It is about hustling every day to drive product development, sales, hiring, marketing, and financing.

With a lot of luck, a startup will turn into a business. It may not be a unicorn but it pays the bills and provides for a comfortable lifestyle. If that happens, it is like winning the lottery.

I don’t want to discourage people from becoming entrepreneurs. But I do want to see more openness and pragmatism. Being honest with entrepreneurs is a necessary evil, otherwise we’re allowing wanna-be entrepreneurs to spin their wheels.


I’ve worked with dozens of startups and fast-growing companies looking to accelerate their marketing and storytelling. My services are driven by frameworks and processes to create messaging, brand positioning and marketing strategies. If you want marketing that makes a difference, let’s talk.

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