You have competition.  I guarantee it.

If you modified Drake’s Equation for the probability of life on other planets, you could easily arrive at a minimum statistical probability of a dozen other people throughout the 6B+ people on Earth who have the exact same idea for your startup. They may not be approaching the business model the exact same way, or they may have dimensionalized the market from a different vantage, but ultimately they want to take money from the same people you want to take money from to solve a particular pain point or business need. That’s the part that is important.

You may even, however unlikely, have ‘first-mover advantage’.  In grade school, we used to call that a ‘head start’.  Yours to lose.

Now comes the way to screw it up:  Don’t focus 500% on it.  Do it on the side.  Tinker with it without ever getting serious.  Get distracted by every new shiny thing that crosses your path. Be leisurely.

Because, of course, the other dozen people (read ‘teams of seasoned, well-funded, veteran entrepreneurs’) who also have the same startup idea have work-life balance, soccer matches, vacations, second (or first) jobs, etc. etc. etc.

Whoops, that’s right, no they don’t.

They are working on this 24x7x365.  They aren’t dabbling, they are grinding and hustling and executing like hell. They are going to, in StartupCity Des Moines parlance, ‘knock you down and take your lunch money.’

Imagine two people who both want to win a 5K race.  Contestant #1 kind-of ‘mails it in’, walking at lunches and running a mile here and a mile there on the weekends.  Contestant #2 is fully committed, running every day for at least four miles and grinding down their mile times.  When race-day comes, who do you think is going to win?

Now, when it comes to your startup, who do you think is going to win?  Are you fully-committed?  Are you grinding away 24×7 to make it the best in the world?  Because the other teams are. They don’t have work-life balance.  You have to assume that they are fully staffed by well-funded professionals.  It doesn’t matter if this is your first or your 100th company, or if you can or cannot afford to fully capitalize your company, as the market is a brutal beast that will quickly and decisively sort that out for you.

“So what?” you may say, “I don’t have to be #1, there is ample room in the market for #2 and #3!”  Depending on the market, you may be right, but even still those are the companies that beat the #4-#47 companies to rise to that level.  They didn’t get second-place or third-place by default.

So, don’t screw up.  Focus.  Execute.  Commit yourself 500%.  The odds of startups succeeding is typically quoted as 10% on the best of days, but that is far far lower (think <%1) when you add in distractions and competing responsibilities.

Having said the above, I am a hypocrite.  I have (which is super-awesome, by the way, and stop what you are doing right now and go buy ten of them for your office), and am also a mentor at StartupCity Des Moines.  I am distracted by the two of them competing for attention and sometimes things don’t get done as fast as they would have if I didn’t have two balls to juggle. Luckily for me there is a fair bit of overlap between the two, but the fact of the matter is that both of them are disadvantaged by not being the sole center of my finite amount of attention.

I only point that out to save others the effort of doing so.  I am actualized enough to know the reality of the ideal while also knowing that I am still striving to achieve it.  – Christian