Hustling: A Prerequisite for (Startup) Success; or Maybe Just BS?

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”

“Cargo Cult Science

“The (Hustle) Talk”

Whether you’re new to startups or being in this space forever I bet you had “the (hustle) talk”.

As matter of fact, is not really a talk…is more like a lecture if I may say so.

Which pretty much goes something like this:

If you’re not hustling, you’re losing

Yep, is short, sweet, and to the point.

And sort of binary I may add!  

Either you do it, or you’re destined to fail.

But what does hustle really mean?

Well according to our friend Adam Pittenger, a ‘believer’:

Hustle is saying no to happy hour to prepare a pitch deck. Hustle is waking up early on a Saturday to write a new company blog post. Hustle is quitting Clash of Clans because it took more than 5 minutes of your day. Hustle is skipping dinner and a movie because that $50 is two months of your team’s Github plan.”

Or said differently, is the notion that unless you absolutely devote your whole life to your thing & burn both ends of the candle you won’t make it as an entrepreneur.

So, today’s question?

It couldn’t be more straightforward…

Is hustling a core ingredient to a startup’s success; or maybe just BS?

Ok, let’s jump straight into this.

The Case For Hustling

So, why many think hustling is a prerequisite for (startup) success?

4 words…

No Pain, No Gain!

Not surprised, right?

After all, we have all trained to believe that nothing good in life comes easy…

But if we get back to Adam’s definition & read between the lines… (ok, this might be a stretch as it’s pretty obvious) you’ll see that he is not just talking about hard work.

That’s right – other than that, he indirectly touches another key premise behind the concept of hustling.

Which is of course the idea that you have to be willing to do things that others won’t…

Because, if you think about it working hard is so intrinsic in most societies (especially in the Western world) that it makes it almost ‘business as usual’ for the majority of people.

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Profitable From The Get Go: Is That Even Possible?

“A dead end street is a good place to turn around”

-Naomi Judd

First year of trading

About to start a business?

And wondering how long would it take until ‘the baby’ to start spitting out (net) cash?

I have some bad news for you…

Not anytime soon.

Or at least that’s what the conventional wisdom suggests!

Shocker, right?

I know – after all, someone has to pay the pills.

And that someone is YOU!

But is ramen profitability really beyond reach when starting out?

Ramen what?

Ok, for those of you wondering what’s that about, here is a neat definition from our friends at QuickBooks:

Ramen profitable describes a business owner who is barely making enough to earn a small salary and pay living expenses, but is making a profit.”

So, with that aside let’s get back to today’s question:

Is getting profitable, even at a ramen level, doable during your first year of trading; Or is it just a sheer fantasy?

Ok, let’s start digging…

Shooting for ramen profitability? Don’t hold your breath!

Yes, you did read that correctly!

Profits at your first year shouldn’t be expected.

In fact, it takes much more than a year for hitting cash-positive.

How much more?

Well, Dee Lio, an advocate of this line of thinking, put’s that number to 3 years.

In his words, the story typically goes something like this:

“In the first year, you’re usually red. The second year (if you make it), you’re generally even, but saddled with the first year’s start up costs. Year three usually pays back year 1, with true profits starting near the end of year three.”

But what’s the reasoning behind this phenomenon/claim?

The reason why the majority of new companies, on average, have to go through this cycle until to find their footing and turn things around is because

hitting product/market fit TAKES TIME!

Yep, getting the product’s value prop right doesn’t happen overnight.

Of course, this comes to no one’s surprise.

Only a quick look out there (aka market) makes it clear even to the hardest critique that rough,

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Breaking Into An Overcrowded Market: Is It Ever A ‘Sane’ Decision?

“If you come in late, you have to have a bloody good reason for the consumer to switch”

-Tim Ambler

The New Norm: Supply Exceeds Demand

We’re all scre*ed.

Yes, even you. Your ex-boy/girlfriend was right!

In case you’re wondering, I am of course talking about startups…


Well, kidding-aside, here’s the thing – despite in which industry you’re about to enter (as a new startupper) the story is pretty much always the same:

The supply of products exceeds demand.

Put differently, unless you’re going after a brand new market category (which statistically speaking is more the exception than the rule) you’ll have to face an overcrowded market.

Yep, a market packed, big time, with competition!

And for some, that alone is kind of deal-breaker…

Why I hear you ask?

Ok, let’s start digging.

Is Entering A Crowded Market Worth The Gamble? NO

So, why many suggest entering an over-saturated industry should be a non-option?

A couple of reasons:

Reason #1: It makes it much harder to make it

The underlying assumption here is straightforward.

Unless you have a completely unique good (or alternatively something which is WAY BETTER than what is currently out there) attracting people with the will to even give you a chance becomes almost a mission impossible due to the myriad of rival offers.

The bad news?

You probably don’t have that product.

Or at least that what the claim is!

And for driving that point home, the advocates of this school of thought, back-up their claim with a bunch of, wait for it…

…startup failure rates statistics.

Love them or loathe them, are here ‘to tell the truth’.

I know, sad isn’t it?

Reason #2: It makes it much more expensive to break through the noise

That’s right – if shrinking (success) odds were not bad enough the increased marketing costs come to make things even more miserable.

And this is only natural!

Why is that?

It’s simple – one of the biggest challenges for new products is attracting the attention of the right people at the right time and…

with a market packed with competing products,

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Instant Gratification: Must have or maybe just overhyped?

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment”

– Jim Rohn

The Power of Now

How long does it take your product to deliver on its promise?

If your answer is ‘a couple of weeks’, you need to change that.

Or at least that what the claim is!

But why?

Introducing instant gratification…

Say what?

Come on – I am sure most of you came across this term hundreds of times.

But just for the sake of consistency here is a formal definition from our good friend Neil Patel:

“Instant gratification is the desire to experience pleasure or fulfillment without delay or deferment. Basically, it’s when you want it; and you want it now”.

I know, there is much talk these days about the ‘age of impatience’… 

… and of course about the companies riding this trend by offering products that tap into 21st-century consumers’ universal desire for instant gratification.

A couple such examples?

Here you go:

Spoonrocket (on-demand lunch in 10 minutes)

Hanic DC Aqua (transparent white teeth makeup)

PostMates (any product from any store in an hour)

Toppik (hair building fibers for instant full thick hair)

Amazon Prime (one-day delivery)

FedEx (overnight package delivery)

And the list goes on.

Today’s question?

Is instant gratification a must have or maybe just overhyped?

Ok, let’s start digging…

The Case for Instant Gratification

So, why people think building instant gratification into your product has almost become a must have in today’s market?

Here are 3 reasons to get you started…

Reason #1: Is not just expected but demanded

Yep, in line with what we said before the conventional wisdom suggests that today’s customers:

a) Hate waiting (or at best have little tolerance for it)

b) More often than not expect instant results as a given

c) Have little to no loyalty and are happy to shop around until to get what they want

The moral of the story?

Deliver instant gratification or die.

Reason #2: It plays on your advantage (due to the hyperbolic discounting principle)

What’s that I hear you ask?

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‘Mini-Me Targeting’: A Great Business Strategy or Maybe a Curse in Disguise?

“Vague direction leads to misalignment every time”

– Greg McKeown

My Target Group Is…

Startupper struggling to decide who should be your target audience?

Here’s an idea.

Pick yourself…


Yes my friends – I am of course referring to the classic business strategy of going after people like you.

Or as Tim Ferriss likes to put it “be{ing} a member of your target market”.

But what’s the logic behind this advice?

And most importantly: is it any good?

Ok, let’s get straight in…

Mini-Me Targeting Is Here to Stay: Here is Why!

So, what’s the reasoning?

According to the ‘mini-me targeting’ supporters it mainly boils down to these 2:

– You build a product (& go-to-market plan) faster and better

Yep, knowing intimately your target group – which happens by definition when you’re one of them – gives you a great head start because…

…you’re already ‘inside their head’ & understand deeply stuff like their motivations, pain points, life situation, concerns, what they like, buying habits and much more.

The alternative?

Starting with a clean sheet, which quite often ends up being the reason you have to:

a) Carry out extensive market/customer research (which btw yes it takes time)

b) Make a ton of customer and market assumptions (or guesstimates if you will)

b) Unnecessary go through multiple iteration cycles until to figure out which of your assumptions (from your research findings) are true and which are dead wrong

The moral of the story in a sentence?

You guessed it – building stuff based on facts (and first-hand experience) and not assumptions is always better!

–  You have a better founder-market fit

Ok, this own is pretty obvious…

Being one of them makes you more relatable.

And especially when it comes to selling that’s pretty important.


Our friend Scot couldn’t have put it better:

“People like people that they can identify with. There’s an inherent sense of understanding injected into an interaction when you connect on something.”

That’s right – in business as in life, people tend to feel more comfortable around people like themselves…

Just think for a moment: when was the last time you bought something from a business based on the relatability factor?

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