Startup Secret No. 30: You and your puny mind

You may think you've got a big idea. It's not big enough.


--Jason Calacanis, CEO, Mahalo and ThisWeekIn

Entrepreneurs often think big. But they rarely think big enough, Jason says. "If it's not beyond your conception, it's too small."

We were talking about Weblogs Inc., a network of blogs that Jason launched in 2003 and sold to AOL in 2005, when it had 90 titles, including Engadget, Autoblog, and TUAW.

That wasn't enough? "It could have been bigger," he says. The challenge was not operational. The structure was there. He could have hired up the management to run a larger network. The issue was his conception of what counted as "big."

Likewise, he regrets that his Bubble 1.0 magazine, Silicon Alley Reporter, focused exclusively on the New York tech scene. He left the larger coverage of tech startups to Red Herring (where I worked at the time) and the Industry Standard. "I shouldn't have limited myself," he says.

The best way to challenge your puny ideas of scope and scale, I believe, is to take venture funding. VCs need to make massive returns on their investments in order to pay their own freight and make up for the companies they invest in that fizzle. They don't make money from nice little earners. They make money from Facebooks.

I'm not saying that angel investors, who typically put less money into companies at earlier stages, can't also nudge founders to think about how to scale up their thinking. But VCs have to think humongous or their model doesn't work. That's not the case with all angels.

The corollary to this Secret: If you don't want a gigantic company--it's not for everybody--don't take money that does.

I will be a grand jury judge at Jason's Launch conference for startups on March 7 and 8 in San Francisco. See you there!

Startup Secrets is based on personal interviews with people building companies and from their blog posts and news stories. Subscribe to Startup Secrets on Twitter or come back to Rafe's Radar every day for a new one. See all the Startup Secrets.

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