Bad time to start a company?

Caterina from Flickr says it’s a bad time to start a new company.

  1. Everybody else is starting a company. It’s crazy. Every single person who leaves a tech company isn’t going to Microsoft or Google or Apple or whatever, they’re going to a startup. Trying to operate in this environment is crazy. I’m getting late-onset ADD from trying to keep track of them all, and it’s impossible to get attention for your product amidst all the buzz (er, noise).
  2. Your competition just got funded too. You’ve got $5 million in the bank, and they do too. Their VCs want them to succeed every bit as much as your VCs want you to succeed. This gets you into a horse race, which no one wants: it’s exhausting and expensive.
  3. Talent is scarce again. Hell, I want to find someone to write a little bit of PHP for Wench.com and I can’t find anyone (Hey if you are a PHP webapp builder and have some spare cycles, email me at caterina-at-gmail). Everyone’s gainfully employed, and fielding several offers.
  4. You can’t operate in obscurity anymore. We started our company in 2002 when nothing was getting funded anywhere and everyone was still licking their wounds from the big bubble bang. Nobody cared about us except us. We were in Vancouver fer crissakes. But we were able to focus on finding and connecting with the people who mattered most: the customers, the users, the community. You get more done when no one’s looking over your shoulder.
  5. Web 2.0 isn’t all that. Hello?. I don’t think there’s a rising tide lifting all boats here. I don’t think Web 2.0 is the magic bullet some people seem to think it is either. It ain’t the features, it’s that AND the business. Tagging was a great feature, no doubt. But Flickr was at break even — about to tip into the black — when we were acquired.
  6. There’s too much going on. Every night there’s a Mashup get together, or a TechCrunch party, or it’s Tag Tuesday, or SuperHappyDevHouse or SXSW or this conference or that conference. And this stuff is fun. It’s a real community. But all of these things are great by themselves, but terrible in combination. I see some entrepreneurs in photos from *every single event*. Who’s talking to the users, writing the code, tweaking and retweaking the UI? It ain’t the Chief Party Officer.

I have to respectfully disagree with much of these points. So what if everyone else is starting a company? Does that mean you shouldn’t? So what if talent is hard to find? Does that mean that you can’t pick up a PHP book or come up with an innovative plan to steal the talent?

This is a great time to start a company, but a bad time to start a stupid company based on a stupid idea with stupid levels of funding and stupid business plans. Choosing to not start a new company because it might get funded, because there’s a talent shortage, or because you can’t talk to users in private, or because it might be hard work is idiotic and lazy. I have huge respect for Caterina and all that she and the Flickr team have done. But this article comes off as a grumpy old man talking about the whippersnappers having easier than in his day.

The Web is alive with ideas and enthusiasm for the first time in several years. Two guys in a garage are able to create, launch, and then fund amazing projects better than even the first dot com bubble. Talent is hard to find because ideas abound. Funding has returned because we’re actually thinking of ideas worth funding again.

Just because the “cool kids” are mocking those not on the scene from the beginning, don’t think we’re not in a good place for good things to happen. Nirvana’s Nevermind album was cool even after it entered the mainstream, and starting a company now is still a viable option even if you’re not one of the first movers.