Amin Shah Gilani bio photo

Amin Shah Gilani

Yet another humanoid.

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I received a lot of criticism for my last post, more than any post midnight Monday night rant should have (or was it Tuesday morning). But the tweets below were exactly what I was hoping for. And I couldn’t be happier. Don’t be an entrepreneur, unless you’re stubborn enough to go on despite the odds.

(The last one may have been a joke. Hirra Babar is the Founder & CEO of SMAG, which is an amazing product. She’s also a female founder, so girl power!)

An Entrepreneur

There are four factors of production: land, labor, capital and entrepreneurship. — every textbook ever
An entrepreneur brings all factors of production together to product output. — also every textbook ever

An entrepreneur is nothing more than an additional factor of production. Your job is the same as the others: making output. Output can be your service, or product. It’s your job to make it happen. If you don’t, you’re a failure. But that’s okay. Most entrepreneurs fail. Just try again.

Entrepreneurship Isn’t Rational

Here’s a quick rundown:

  1. You’re incredibly likely to fail. Seriously, check this out. You have to be stupid to play this game.
  2. If you fail, it will be your fault.
  3. If you accidentally succeed, it’s because of the other factors of production.
  4. You will be repeatedly realize that you’re stupid, and incompetent.
  5. You’d find faster and better returns if you spend your time working for a company.

In just the past year alone, I’ve:

  1. Had to fire almost as many people as I’ve hired. It isn’t easy. It’s awkward.
  2. Begged for investment.
  3. Turned down magically appearing high paying job opportunities because: startup.
  4. Survived on bread and cheese for a month after turning down jobs. It was fun.

You really shouldn’t be an entrepreneur. It doesn’t make sense. If you’re part of the labor, your job is much more straightforward, much easier.

Entrepreneurship is Mostly Learning

You have to be stupid, and stubborn to be an entrepreneur, thankfully that’s what me and my cofounder are (he tweets).

  1. If we know something’s got to be done, we’ve learnt to do it – It’s called being relentlessly resourceful
  2. We once worked on a project without sleep for 3 days and a dozen red bulls.. the client simply ignored our emails after the demo. – We learnt to assume that deals fall through.
  3. If someone tells us what we’re doing is irrelevant, and calls our startup a “doomed failure” to our face, we smile, and ask them why they think that. – because without data, you’re just another person with an opinion. And I choose to go with my own opinion.
  4. A year ago, I was googling “How to register a business”, now I’m on the board of a Delaware C-Corp. And trust me, it sounds cooler than it actually is.
  5. A year ago, I didn’t know how to write a check. Now I quote regulations to my bank manager when he tells me something isn’t possible.

Throughout this rollercoaster ride, I’ve repeatedly found myself whining to my friends about how stupid I am (cheers Ame) and screaming at them when they told me I was wrong. Because, really, who buys an international plane ticket, and misspells their own name? Only stupid people! Who reads 10,000 as 100,000 and tries to transfer funds? Someone with possible dyslexia. But hey, I’m learning.

Startups Are Tough

I cannot emphasize on how tough startups are. People who don’t believe in things will give up and start doing something else. People on your team will leave. People who supported you will say, “this has gone long enough”, but what matters is that you hold true to what you believe in. Don’t give up unless you

In Silicon Valley, the vesting period of a founder is generally 4 years, with a one year cliff. This means that if you leave you startup before a year, you get no shares. If you leave a startup after a year, you’re forfeiting 75% of your shares. Most startups quit after a few months. Don’t. …unless your data tells you that what you’re doing isn’t really entrepreneurial in the first place.

Startups are a lot of disappointments, a lot of fun, and a lot of confusion. How Startups Really Are by Paul Graham does a pretty good job, but it’s really long so don’t go there just yet.

Failure is a part of entrepreneurship. Try not to fail. Don’t be a push over. But if you do fail, it’s okay. Try again. The odds of winning a coin-toss game in the next round increase exponentially, the more you lose

Startups Are Fun

The crowning moment of recognition for my entrepreneurial journey was when I handed my CEO business card to the checker at Centaurus Mall, Islamabad, and was waived the 300 rupee admittance fee. So what if I was cleaning the office tables after work hours, or making tea. I got free admittance to a shopping mall! I also once got a free coke at McDonalds because no one wants to piss off a CEO. Even if I made less money than the servers.

I’ve met the most brilliant people on the planet through my job. My work has taken me halfway across the planet. For someone from Pakistan, I never met another bitcoin nerd in my life. In San Francisco, I was stuck in a room full of blockchain geeks. I’ve have conversations on scaling bitcoin, and increasing block sizes.

Yesterday, I was sitting with a few other founders and I squealed in excitement when I spotted someone’s Yubikey. He was just as excited when I removed my own Yubikey from my pocket.

Today, I was working on my table, barefoot, without having brushed my teeth, when a billionaire walked up to me. After a quick introduction he gave me his card, and said he was excited about our work. I don’t think I’ve ever shaken hands with a billionaire before. I should really start wearing shoes, but I don’t like them.

Don’t Be An Entrepreneur

Not:

  1. If you’re smart. It’s an irrational and stupid move. Life doesn’t have to be this tough.
  2. If you have a caring family. You’ll stop meeting them. It’s been three weeks since I spoke to my mother.
  3. If you have a boyfriend/girlfriend, you’ll likely make it very tough. This will put a huge strain on them. I was lucky to find someone that understands why I can’t talk to her for days and weeks. I’ve never seen someone else have such a relationship.. I’ve seen many breakups, though.
  4. If you still have to complete your education. Your startup will take atleast 4 years to gain direction. You can start after you complete your studies. And getting an international visa is easier if you have a degree.
  5. If you need the support of other people. Everyone in Pakistan is a critic. Everyone has an opinion. Learn to stick to yours. Be stubborn. You’re young. You can always learn from your mistakes, make the most mistakes you can. Don’t ask for a pat on the back.
  6. If people depend on you. You’ll be broke for a while, unable to provide for them. It’ll be extremely tough, consider what you’ll put them through.
  7. If you expect to be rich in a year. You almost certainly won’t be. It’ll take years before your startup becomes even ramen profitable.

These aren’t hard rules. If you still wanna do this despite the odds, go on. I have broken some of these myself.

I have friends that support me no matter what. Sometimes when they find out I’m not doing too well, they kidnap me and drag me out (seriously thank you Yamz, Fizz, Yazu, Wish, and Amel). I’m lucky. I’ve somehow been extremely lucky. Don’t depend on luck, it generally falls through. Don’t leave anything to chance.