Why are the founders so honest in Startups Open Sourced?

I read an article tonight on TechCrunch about Octopart, and it left me with some dissatisfaction. It’s not that TechCrunch is bad at writing about startups, and in fact I’m glad that they’ve chosen to focus on less sexy startups who should serve as the role models for working diligently and consistently hard.

Having read the full story in my own book from Andres Morey himself, I got through reading the article and thought, “That was it?” They gave a pretty short summary and it had the same effect that most media stories have. If I knew nothing about Octopart, I might be more jealous of their success. Having read the full story, I have an admiration for the effort they put into it and it would inspire me not to give up too quickly on a startup because I know how difficult it was for them.

Every single person that I’ve spoken to about this book almost immediately remarks on how open, honest and candid the interviews are in Startups Open Sourced. This includes the people who have reviewed my book and the people on Twitter who have commented on it. When I went into writing the book, I had no idea what to expect. In fact, when I sent out my first batch of invites, I was worried that nobody would agree to be interviewed. Being an entrepreneur myself, I knew I had a few risks:

Having landed the interviews, I was surprised at how open founders were. They talked more about emotions than any other interviews I’ve read of founders. Why did this happen? I think I can point to a few things:

I’m still trying to figure out how this happened. I can’t say that it’s a bad thing at all. It turned out much better than I expected. I remember wanting to release an interview each day for a full week, but the first person I asked had requested that I not publicly release the interview because too many personal details were included in the original interview. This affirms that there are things in the book that just won’t get talked about otherwise because the founders opened up quite a bit.

The net effect the depth and honesty of the interviews has on people seems to be admiration rather than jealousy. When you read headlines that talk about how a company raised a few million dollars or just got acquired, it’s easy to say “well I could do that if they did it.” But you don’t see how much work went on, and then when you go to do your own startup, you feel like you’ve been lied to. It was like the media was telling you this was supposed to be easy because they wrote a one page summary on how everyone else did it. You think you’re doing something wrong and you’re the only person, but it turns out that nearly every single founder is going through or will go through the exact same thing you are as an early stage startup founder.

At the same time, I can’t bash the media too much. Companies have been started by those same headlines. They started companies like Mixpanel who saw Kevin Rose on the cover of BusinessWeek and the founder said “well if that nerd can do it, so can I. Piece of cake.” Granted, the founders had a healthy dose of reality when they actually took the plunge, but those same headlines got the wheels spinning.

by Jared Tame on May 19, 2011

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