For the past week, the blogosphere has been praising and/or vilifying Truemors, Guy Kawasaki’s new venture. Kawasaki himself has been promoting the fact that the site/company got up and running for just $12,107.09. There is even a matching Kawasaki blog post eloquently titled "By the Numbers: How I built a Web 2.0, User-Generated Content, Citizen Journalism, Long-Tail, Social Media Site for $12,107.09" [link deliberately NOT provided].
But here’s the thing. IT’S SIMPLY NOT TRUE.
In the literal sense, sure. I gather he spent $12,107.09. Although looking at the amount spent on legal fees, and the number of items it covers, I’d say he got a break on pricing.
But that’s not my real point. My real point is that this is NOT a case where some guy (pun intended) set up a Web 2.0 company on a dime and it became a success. Kawasaki and others seem to be actively implying that this is a yCombinator-like build-a-company-for-nothing success story, and at best, that’s misleading.
This was not a break-out phenomenon by a relatively unknown individual, (like Twitter, for example). This was a pet project by a well known tech celebrity with ENORMOUS media leverage. Yes, only $12k was “spent”, but it was Guy Kawasaki spending it. I don’t mean that he is some kind of Warren Buffet-esque genius, but he has access to, and has exploited, more marketing leverage than any typical entrepreneur could possibly hope for.
TechCrunch coverage alone has been enough to get companies started, never mind the rest of the hoopla throughout the blogosphere and beyond.
It reminds me of the urban legend about Picasso sketching a portrait on the back of a napkin for a persistent fan. When he told her the price was $5000, she was shocked and pointed out that it only took a minute to draw. To which Picasso replied “No, it took me my whole life”.
In this case, Picasso is an overly kind comparison. But the point remains that almost all companies live or die by their ability to attract customers a.k.a. marketing. Truemors is a blog-bait idea from someone with extensive access to the media. And that kind of access is (a) rare and (b) typically expensive.
I’m a fan of Kawasaki works such as “The Art of the Start”, and I think all potential entrepreneurs should be encouraged to start something. I also firmly believe that the Internet has dramatically lowered the costs associated with starting a business.
But all that being said, I think it is pretty disingenuous of Kawasaki to actively promote the pretence that that anyone could have started a company just like this for only $12k and had the same level of initial success.
"Life is good for entrepreneurs these days **" [quote from the aforementioned Kawasaki blog]
** Provided you have Guy Kawasaki’s reputation and media contacts to build on.