There are countless posts that show up on Hacker News over the course of a year, yet one of the most ridiculous posts that continue to show up are “How I built a startup in 4 hours”. Check out this guy who built a t-shirt site that sells 1 t-shirt, or this one which has a landing page that sells nothing. Unfortunately though, none of these things are businesses and none of them tend to make much money.
It’s part of a more common trend that falls in the same vein as “StartupWeekend” and any post that references starting a business in under 48 hours. If these people are going to claim that they started a company, then I’ve just one upped them with the “30 second startup”. Oh, how’d I build it that fast? Easy. I came up with an idea and I tweeted it. I then linked back to my blog and said I’d build it at some point. Beat that sucker!
No, these things are not businesses. A lemonade stand on the corner that generates revenue one day is not a business (although I’ve heard some cops will tell you that it’s an illegitimate operation and try to arrest you). A business is a well defined concept that you spend all of your time building and executing on. If you took that lemonade stand and set it up on a regular basis (daily, weekly, whatever), possibly even reinvested the revenue into the business, and maybe even invested in some marketing, then I would say it’s a business.
Some people come up with clever ideas that generate revenue. Take the million dollar homepage for example. That guy made a million dollars. Is it a business? Not really. He has no sustainable revenue from the site. I’m working on a new company right now and I think it’s a brilliant idea. I also always tend to think that I can build my ideas (like the one I’m working on) in a matter of days or weeks. Three weeks into it I suddenly realize my projections were way off.
That’s always how it goes. The real test is finishing the product, getting it to revenue, and making that revenue sustainable. I’ve started dozens of projects. Nobody’s handing me any trophies for the projects I didn’t finish though. The ones that you get rewarded for are the ones you stick to. I’d much rather congratulate someone who has been grinding away on a project that they can support themselves with.
Next time you see that post about how somebody started something in minutes, hours, days, think twice about congratulating them as a weekend is no where close to what’s necessary to build a lasting product. It’s just enough time to convince yourself that you can.