Peter Paul and Mary - Mr Cranky Startups

Mr Cranky Startups – Where Have All The Founders Gone?

Mr Cranky Startups. It’s a love hate relationship that reminds me of a song:

Where have all the founders gone,
Long time passing,
Where have all the founders gone,
Long time ago,

When will they ever learn?

At least I think that’s how the Peter, Paul and Mary song went.

Mr Cranky Startups Rant

Lately, I’ve been wondering about the weakness in DC Tech startups. It seems to me that the rate of startup founders dipping their toes in the DCTech pond has slowed considerably. Yet before I am added to the list of purveyors of Fake News which is just another name for the Local DC Tech press, like DCInno, let me admit that this is kind of a trumpish statement, since I’m short of actual data and base my observation on feelings.

Startups growth rates were up rapidly around 2008 and peaked around 2012. Today there is a lack of new startups and more importantly a lack of new quality startups (see The Startup Turd to Gold Ratio). Worse still, there are very few great startups like Hurdlr (who? you say. My point exactly) are operating in secret. In fact most great companies spend more time developing product and customers instead of wasting limited resources courting the local tech press.

Mr Cranky Startups Theory

My theory on this? As  Bill Clinton use t0 say, “it’s the economy, Stupid!” As companies were laying people off and unemployment hovered over 10% people who didn’t have and couldn’t find jobs needed something to do. “I know, why not make startup? After all, no one has ever created an app that disrupts the market for polish American brides to  plan  a kickass, kielbasa-filled, polish american wedding!” Seemed easy enough in the movie the social network and being Zuckerberg  is such a cool job.  I’ll be a Zuckerberg!

So the underemployed embarked on a journey to turn their stupid ideas into stupid companies, pitching at stupid pitch events covered by the stupid “journalists,” so stupid investors (and stupid former investors like me) can waste our stupid money so stupid founders could throw stupid parties until the stupid cows came to their stupid homes.

Bing bang boom! We see the growth boom of silly startups. Many of them funded by foolish Angel Investors like me as we invested in non-serious founders of companies like Spinakr and HugeFan and half the companies in many of the local accelerators like 1/2 the companies in the fortify.vc  portfolio to that list of silly (Lemur, MonthsOfMe, TrendPro, tistagames, starshooter, etc etc). Let’s not even talk about the jokes that 1776 DC makes and calls investments.

This last startup app driven cycle reminds me of the dot.com, dot.bomb bubble when anyone with a crayon and napkin raised money from freshly minted Wharton MBAs who competed to out-stupid their fellow VCs.

Well most of the Angels I know have lost our appetite for startups and most of the would-be founders have found real jobs and therefore balance has returned to the universe. At least in DC the air has been let out of the DCTech bubble. It appears that 2017 will be the year of doing real work and not pretending that every idea is a good excuse to  euphemistically quit your job (being layed off), putting on a black mock-turtleneck and pretending you’re the next Steve Jobs.

Mr Cranky Startups Summary

So folks, that’s all for now on this until next bubble time, when we forget these lessons and the silly ideas rise again, and mark my words history will repeat itself. We’ll be there again.

For those of you who don’t know the song? Here’s Peter, Paul and Mary singing, “Where Have All The Founders Gone.” By the way, why is Mary… the woman in the group listed last? Alphabetically and gender-wise she should be listed first. This is some form of gender bias. Of that I’m sure.