Entrepreneurship is not a thinking game

Business plans have become kind of a joke in the startup world. Rightfully so.

Any kind of planning or attempts to think things through that go beyond quick back-of-the-envelope plausiblity checks are a waste of time.

Every single time I came up with some master plan it turned out to be a complete waste of time.

Especially in the early stages of a business, it’s simply impossible to predict how it’s going to develop.

Whenever I sit down to figure something out or make a decision systematically, I end up more confused than before.

No matter how much you research, how many mind maps you draw, how many spreadsheets you fill out, you’re going to be completely wrong.

So all of these activities are a waste of time, plain and simple. They are the most dangerous form of procrastination since they feel like real work.

The same goes for reading books, listening to podcasts, watching videos, or any other form of looking for advice.

The problem with startup advice is all of it is true.

As the president of Y Combinator Sam Altman preached the gospel of launching early, raising very little capital upfront, finding product-market fit as quickly as possible.

But then, as the CEO of OpenAI, he raised $1 billion in funding and spent years in stealth mode before launching anything.

He now says he feels bad about the he gave while running YC.

But there’s absolutely no reason to feel bad.

Both playbooks, even though they are orthogonal, are perfectly valid. There are real-world examples of both approaches working.

And exactly the same is true for all startup advice.

Raise money or bootstrap?

Follow your passion or focus on finding the most lucrative opportunity?

Get a job to learn the ropes or jump right in?

Test everything methodically or trust your gut?

Move fast and break things or move slow and get it right?

Do strategic idea safaris or just start building something?

Niche down or go broad?

Focus on the hottest new distribution channel or stick to lindy channels?

Get out of the building and talk to customers or will that just lead to you focusing on “faster horses”?

The answer is always the same: it depends.

Of course that’s the answer! Reality has a shitton amount of detail.

Anyone who argues with full confidence that there can only be one right answer to any of these questions is a charlatan.

I used to be impressed when people wrote or talked about these brainy grand theories.

Like “here’s a 3-step process for coming up with a business idea”. Or “here’s a 5-step playbook for validating it”. Or “here’s a 7-part framework for growing your startup”.

Now I know that every “business thinker” is full of shit. All of it is nonsense that only looks good on paper.

None of these theoreticians is still in the trenches. If they ever got first-hand experience, it was a long time ago.

Active pracitioners know what matters.

Doing stuff.



Nothing else moves the needle.

Only by actually building something you discover truly valuable opportunities. You will never find them in research reports or by applying some brainy ideation framework.

It’s also the only way to find out what actually works in your specific situation.

And the less time you waste on researching and planning, the more time you have to gather real world data and experiences.

Entrepreneurship is not a thinking game. It’s a doing game.

Written on June 24, 2023

PS: If you're interested in following my journey, sign up below: