Risk and startups

Paul Graham has a fantastic recent post in his blog.  This is the kind of advice I wish I had heard when I was 21.

Yet, I can’t complain because the euphoric environment of 1999 allowed me and my partners at SelectMinds to take the plunge into startup world, when I was just 28.  It’s one of the best decisions of my life.

When we started SelectMinds, the reaction from my peers, most of whom had chosen more traditional corporate paths, tended to be "how can you handle the risk". Even then, I did not really thing what we were doing was terribly risky.  At the end of the day, all we were risking was the opportunity cost of mid-management salaries.  It was not a bet-your-kids’-college-account-along-with-your-house type of risk.

I hear a common perception when the topic is startups: Comfort with risk is the most important characteristic for an entrepreneur.  I disagree.  I think the most important characteristic (or skill) is comfort with ambiguity.  If I had to characterize my experience in a startup environment with one word, ambiguity would be the choice.

Dr. Amar Bhide has a wonderful book that looks at this issue.

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