How to Get Rich Quick With a Startup?

It’s surprising how often an aspiring entrepreneur or young technology executive has tried to pitch me with that implicit proposition. And, guess what? When I hire executives, invest in a company or otherwise have to work on the same team, such “get rich quick” rhetoric suggests the best course is to steer well clear.

The notion that a real business, with lasting value, could be built in a few months or years seemed to take hold, like much else, during the heady “tech bubble” days of the late 1990’s. I can recall one such aspiring entrepreneur telling me that “we should be able to flip this business in 18 to 24 months”.

Why is such hubris a problem? For starters, it shows a healthy naivety around the amount of real work and time it takes to build a great business. Of course, there may be exceptions. Against the odds, some people winn the lottery. Likewise, in normal times, some seem to be able to build and cash out in record time. In my book, that’s largely serendipity. In addition, this short term perspective, almost always accompanies inexperience around the twists and turns that cause most business plans to take longer than originally anticipated.

And, more fundamentally, I got involved in software and technology originally as a passion. I remember saying in my early days that working in computers was “so fun, that I didn’t need to be paid for it.” Every company I’ve ever started, worked with or invested in has become a personal passion of mine. I strongly believe that long term success is rooted in passion more than money. Furthermore, it is my personal experience that almost every long term successful technology entrepreneur has shared this characteristic.

For those set on the notion of “get rich quick”, there’s still the lottery or Texas Holdem, the probabilities notwithstanding. But, building a great business almost always takes a tremendous investment of time and effort.