I just finished reading Paul Graham’s latest essay, Schlep Blindness. I could say many things about it, but I’ll get straight to the point. Graham talks about having the realization that creating a business involves lots of unpleasant and tedious work. He makes it sound like he just invented faster-than-light travel, even though every person who ever ran a successful business can tell you this. You don’t even need to have started a company. My grandmother burned this into my brain when I was five years old. Chores are necessary but not fun. If it were easy everyone would do it. Yawn.
Is it possible that Paul Graham’s audience (in his mind at least) is composed of privileged, spoiled kids who don’t know about blood, sweat and tears? I guess. No harm in telling suburban kids from Ivy League schools about the harsh reality of the entrepreneur, the unsung hero of modern society. My real issue with this piece is that it’s extremely disingenuous. Let me explain why.
Paul Graham is an investor. He invests in hundreds of companies. He is looking for the next Facebook or Google. Creating a company like that requires founders who won’t take an early exit. It’s easier for this to happen if those founders are a bit irrational and inexperienced. Here’s the most dangerous paragraph in the whole article:
How do you overcome schlep blindness? Frankly, the most valuable antidote to schlep blindness is probably ignorance. Most successful founders would probably say that if they’d known when they were starting their company about the obstacles they’d have to overcome, they might never have started it. Maybe that’s one reason the most successful startups of all so often have young founders.
This is pure speculation, and a rationalization to justify Paul’s preference for younger founders. Another possibility is that older founders most likely don’t align themselves with Paul’s investment objectives.
I’m 42 years old. I started IndexTank not that long ago, and I could say what Paul says above: if I had known how hard it was going to be, blah blah. That adage is cliché, ignorance is bliss. That doesn’t mean anything though, because I know I will do other things in life that will have similar obstacles. I may start another company some day, and hopefully I won’t face the same ones. I will face unexpected hardships and it will be rough at times, because that’s life. Nobody knows what they are getting into when they start something new, old or young. That’s just because life is unpredictable, like a motherfucking box of chocolates. Don’t be fooled, what Paul Graham is doing here is thinking like the VC that he is.
And Paul, please stop trying to make “schlep” happen. It’s not going to happen.