Every year gets Harder

When I was a couple months out from graduating college, my friend and mentor gave me some career advice. I asked her if I should start a company now or get a job and work on it. She told me to get a job for a year or so.

But like an asshole, I ignored her and just did a startup.

It sucked. I had no savings, I knew nobody. I was stuck in a bedbug ridden apartment in New Jersey with the worst cofounder ever. In retrospect, maybe I could have found better cofounders or had more savings or grew a network for a future company.

But it was a good thing I didn’t listen. I got into Y Combinator. I raised 2 million dollars. I am not sure I could get into Y Combinator these days, far more people apply and their standards have gone way way up. The guy who decided to let us into the program, Justin Kan, isn’t even a partner there anymore.

I wouldn’t have had the press articles about me in back when Y Combinator had enough sway to get those for every company. Heck, I wouldn’t have been able to pitch to other press like Techcrunch back when simply being a Y Combinator company was enough to interest a tech journalist.

Every year it gets harder to do the same thing.

More and more people see where the opportunity is and want to get in. Your odds get lower. If you wanted to be a popular Youtuber or Twitch streamer, it would far more difficult today than 5 years ago. It would have been more difficult 5 years ago than it was 10 years ago.

The early adopters, the ones who got in before the wave of popularity had several benefits. They had the creativity of forming their own path.

Things get less creative as time goes on.

Every youtuber is somewhat emulating what they saw work before them. They are following the path. In the entirety of the visual medium, why is every single popular Youtuber a Vlogger?

Just watch an old lecture by Alan Kay or Ted Nelson on what they thought the internet could become. Listen to them ponder what it will become. All of silicon valley can only think about websites while a generation back they can imagine how computers will evolve. These guys used to imagine how technology interacts with us at a high level.

The early adopters also ride the wave of popularity.

They never had to become SEO masters or figure out advertising. Youtube itself was attracting so much traffic that the growth outpaced the creators. The early adopters merely had to exist to grow their audiences rapidly.

Those who already started have the experience.

I wouldn’t have had experience from the first startup to be seen as an expert five year later. I got a call from a Google Ventures project in Toronto and a logistics-related startup in San Francisco just this week. I was acquired by an international logistics company and  fly around the world talking to logistics executives (I am in Toronto as I write this). Imagine if you were to try and do what I did five years later. I have the connections, the proof, and the experience that I can execute and you do not. I was just some asshole out of college, but I would get so much further than you simply because I did it longer.

There hurdles haven’t been created yet

Ever hear stories of people showing up in Hollywood and getting discovered and put in movies? Gone are the days where you could work your way up from an extra or a lighting guy to lead actor or producer. If you want to break into show business you could probably still do that through a rising Youtube Channel.

Or what about stories of people showing up in Silicon Valley and getting discovered and given investment? This happens for everything until too many people try it and it’s saturated. Whoever starts after you will have a harder time.

Things just take way longer than you imagine

Everything amazing started out meh and was reworked for a long time. The top podcast Reply all had the less popular TLDR before. Before Paul Graham essays, he wrote on his website BugBear (http://bugbear.com). Before Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon first wrote and workshopped the painting scene as an assignment in his Harvard drama class. It’s the one where the patient tries to diagnose the therapist by analyzing the paintings on his walls.
Every comedian spends at least a year shopping their stand up hour before it is released.

So start now.

It is either you or some asshole. Wouldn’t you rather it be you?