The Importance of Being Earnest
From the day I began my life as a young entrepreneur, I've consistently seen something important — the power of being earnest.
Originally published on Medium in June 2018
earnest: Resulting from or showing sincere and intense conviction.
I first discovered this word from the mouth of Paul Graham, back in April 2017 at The Family in Paris. After his talk, I had the chance to speak with him, and he must have heard something in what I told him about our little project, Goosebump. We weren’t just aiming at an opportunity, we were building something that we, a couple of electronic music lovers, needed ourselves.
That’s when I began to see why we were starting to find some early traction. Being earnest was what really helped us to bootstrap the project while being students (and broke).
As we kept going, I kept seeing why being earnest was important for different people:
being earnest helps with the bad times. It seems that you’ll have bad times. And then it’s only the resilience that comes from working on something that you truly love that can help you.
I can’t count the number of times that I heard something bad about our startup. It’s important to focus on what your users are telling you. But sometimes you have to listen to your gut and keep going. Funny story: after I delivered my one-liner to PG, he responded with “Um… that’s a shitty idea.” You can’t imagine my face at that moment. But I stayed calm and continued the discussion, explaining how different we are than other event guide and why we are the best to build this marketplace where people’s social lives are organized. 30 minutes later, he asked me to send him an email and apply to YC.
ask each other: Why are we, as individuals, doing this? You need to be honest if you want your interests to stay aligned. That honesty is the only thing that can build a strong culture and create a resilient team.
If one of your co-founders is not aligned, when something bad happens the team can simply explode and your startup will start down the path of death. I’ve seen so many cases of co-founder conflict happen, with the stress getting so high that people are throwing around insults that get so bad that they just can’t work with the others anymore. And to be totally transparent, that’s actually what happened in our case as well.
look for founders who love what they do. I don’t mean who love being an entrepreneur and raising funds, but who love what they’re building and couldn’t dream of doing something else with their time.
Goosebump died 2 months ago, just after the Facebook — Cambridge Analytica data scandal. Facebook killed the strategic endpoints of the Graph API that we were using to scrape events. Using Facebook’s data helped us to go very fast and create the best event discovery experience. That’s what we are good at, and our investors know it. Today they’re helping us to find a solution to keep working on our mission. It’s a mission we love and we won’t let them down. But that’s all I can say for now — keep an eye out for what’s next ;)
“I’ve now realized for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest.” — Oscar Wilde
Thanks to Kyle Hall, Oussama Ammar, and Raphaël Doulonne for reading drafts of this.
EDIT August 2019: We decided to stop and accept the failure soon after this post. Raph and I joined DICE and enjoyed working there for ~8 months. It was cool to continue our mission, but frustrating not being able to apply our own vision. Lots of learning working with a team of ~80 people. Now back to what we love — building a product that we want from scratch, just the two of us.