Why You Shouldn't Try and Start a Billion-Dollar Company
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Loic Le Meur might be one of the most charismatic and connected people in Silicon Valley.
He’s started and runs a slew of successful companies including Seesmic, a dynamic company that was short-sidedly put out of business too soon by Ev Williams and Biz Stone at Twitter when they decided to cut the knees off of all third-party developers and shut them out a few years ago.
Ironically, many argue that Twitter’s current issues today with a dwindling user base and lackluster activity can be traced to that moment in time.
In any case, Le Meur says he holds no grudges but learned several critical lessons the hard way from the experience, the most important being, “Never build your house on someone else’s land.”
The land owner, or in this case platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter et al ultimately have control over everything, including your fate. Hundreds of millions of dollars in investments were lost by the collective group affected by Twitter’s business decisions.
Le Meur’s stellar reputation also came from building one of the most prestigious and well-attended tech conferences, LeWeb, which he recently sold. LeWeb attracted the best-of-the-best speakers from all over the world in a giant love-fest tech week in France.
Fun fact: It’s also the birth place of Uber, as Le Meur told me the story about how Travis Kalanick couldn’t get a taxi on his way to LeWeb and dreamed up the solution to his problem...
Now Le Meur has a new startup called Leade.rs that seems to be the next phase after so much time and experience with events and quality speakers. It can be described as an open or crowdsourced startup.
Leade.rs is about connecting the world’s greatest speakers with the best speaking gigs, audiences and other opportunities. It’s an open startup because in an very unorthodox move, Le Meur is asking his friends, fans and venture partners like Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn who they recommend as the “world’s greatest” in various genre and industry categories.
Unlike most startups that keep everything -- especially setbacks -- close to the vest, Le Meur is sharing his journey on Facebook Live every day as well as in a recap email to those who have opted in to receive it.
The full video above is chalk full of really smart advice for marketers, startups and entrepreneurs alike. One of the most significant takeaways for me was when Le Meur shared a recent unsuccessful pitch meeting experience in LA.
After a frustrating session with one of the major talent management companies (likely CAA or UTA), an executive dismissed Le Meur’s Leade.rs because he didn’t see it as a “billion-dollar company.” To that Le Meur responded, “Who told you it isn’t a billion-dollar company?”
In other words, who’s to know?
Did Mark start Facebook with the intention of becoming a billion-dollar company? No. It was about impressing girls on a college campus. Did Instagram or Slack? No, they started as a game or something else before getting traction.
If you’re going to start something, start with identifying a problem and find the solution. Find a pain point and remove it. Dream up a brilliant piece of tech (Steve Jobs’ iPhone comes to mind) and try and deliver a remarkable experience that improves life or brings joy. If you can do that, the money will follow. Don’t worry about the nonbelievers.
Don’t try and start a billion dollar company. Find your voice and an audience that cares. Do your thing until you figure it out.
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