Glory days well they'll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days
OK, I admit it, I'm a HUGE Glee fan. There. Now I've said it. I'm officially out of the closet. I've always been a bit of a geek, so the transition to being a Gleek has been a natural one for me. My wife, who unlike me actually can sing, is always having to shush me as I sing along.
The show's portrayal of the trials and tribulations of high school certainly resonates with the former high-school geek in me. The "in-crowd" of cheerleaders and jocks, while a bit over-the-top in their depiction, shares traits with every other in-crowd you weren't in that you can remember from high school.
How can this possibly remind me of Silicon Valley? Well in the 18 years I've been a part of the startup scene in Silicon Valley I've seen a lot of startup classes come through. And like the makeup of your high school class, there's the startup "in-crowd" and everyone else. Lots of entrepreneurs aspire to be recognized as a part of the "in-crowd". To be a Techcrunch darling; to be on stage with Walt Mossberg at D; to have venture capitalists calling you regularly to find out how they can get in to your next round. Who wouldn't. The failure comes when you confuse being popular with being successful.
Think back to the in-crowd when you were in high school. How many of them are successful now? A few, certainly not all. Now think of the rest of your class, how many of them were successful? Again, a few, but not all. The percentage of people who are now successful in each group is probably similar, but you never would have imagined that would be the case when you were in high school.
I've witnessed a similar dynamic in the different classes of startups I've seen in Silicon Valley. For every Google (a high flyer from the beginning), there's an eBay (not a high-flyer until they had the numbers). There are plenty of examples of companies that were fixtures of the in-crowd that vanished - remember Pointcast anyone? Friendster?
To be sure, being high-profile can have it's advantages and for some companies, it may even be a necessary prerequisite at some point along the way. It can certainly be helpful if you're marketing directly to consumers. But it's not the end-game and courting lots of attention, especially when you're not yet ready for it, can have dire consequences.
So if you're a part of the startup "in-crowd", enjoy. Make the most of the free PR. But don't lose sight of your true goal which is building a valuable and sustainable business. And if you're an outsider, don't sweat it. Relish your outsiderness and use the time flying below the radar to build a solid foundation for your business. If you focus on that and get it right, your glory days will be in front of you and you'll be the center of the in-crowd that everyone wants to join. Trust me, there's no better entry into the real cool kids club than a successful IPO.
Just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days