One thing you can say about startup culture is that it does not underestimate the value of hard work. A healthy work-life balance is not a common sight, especially among young entrepreneurs. And for good reason – in all economies driven by index growth, a slight difference in input (such as working hours) can lead to a surprising difference in results.
In fact, the dark side of working in emotion-driven industries is that very few people at the top win all the prizes. Those who succeed in the hyper-competitive industry are usually obsessed with what they do – professional athletes, musicians, etc. Obsession is what allows them to walk extra miles when people with a more balanced outlook on life may not.
The truth that startup founders internalize is that they quickly come to the conclusion that someone will punch you if you don’t work too hard. This attitude is hard not to accept, especially when highly influential and successful people like Elon Musk preach to work twice as hard as others.
And of course, they are right – hard work is absolutely necessary for success. That said, the truth is a little more concise than that.
The 2021 SOIS report, which studies SaaS startups, found that there is a strong correlation between founders and revenue growth. At the same time, although the study focuses only on SaaS startups that successfully generate revenue, it has been found that nearly half of respondents work less than full-time in their startups.
It is true that the environment at the very end of the industry is highly competitive – highly motivated and capable parties are competing for the attention of rare investors and for the capital needed to scale operations at a high rate, making them the first to claim an exclusive share in their growing industry.
Yet, the same market dynamics that drives VC’s top startups in the world to compete for their flag in a new industry allows you to claim your place in the market without having to work to the death.
Innovation makes a difference by definition, which means that if you offer something unique and have a first-hand advantage in your niche, it will be harder for new market entrants to compete with you on the basis of hard work.
Although only one of the fastest runners or swimmers in the world, the field of startups is much more diverse – thanks to innovation and diversity, even small startups can value society and be rewarded for it.
Of course, a part-time micro-niche is unlikely to become a SaaS startup unicorn, but it is on the point. The SOIS report still proves that you can turn a small input of successful working hours into something valuable.
Hard work is the only flowing energy. It matters what channel you are in and how you use it. It doesn’t matter if you are the hardest worker in the world or not.
Concerning the quality of work, not just quantity, and sometimes a well-networked, experienced professional can create much more value in less time than an inexperienced founder. A study on startup founder age found that 60-year-old entrepreneurs are three times more likely to build a successful startup than 30-year-old founders. This is one of the many unexpected startup statistics that paints a picture contrary to common startup myths.
Hard work is important. But if you want to be successful, it is best to stay focused on smart work and good decisions for a long time.