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Never Give Up: Lessons from Pope Francis and Alex Ferguson and Airbnb, Pinterest, and Snapchat, by Niko Bonatsos — Medium

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Niko Bonatsos writes about startup failures, drawing on examples from :

What is less well known about Pope Francis is that in 2011, he submitted his resignation letter to the Vatican (a requirement for all bishops aged 75 or older) and he was preparing to retire in his hometown in Argentina. His resignation was never accepted by Pope Benedict’s office; blame the Vatican’s bureaucracy. It is really fortunate for the world that God had other plans.

Sir Alex Ferguson managed Manchester United for 27 years and is one of the most successful and widely admired managers in the history of the game. During his tenure at the club, Manchester United won 13 Premier League and two Champions League titles. Sir Alex was appointed manager in late 1986 and in his first three years he won no trophies.

December 1989 was self-admittedly “the darkest period [he had] ever suffered in the game”. Journalists and supporters called for “Fergie” to be fired and United’s Old Trafford had banners declaring “Three years of excuses and it’s still crap...”

It was expected that Fergie’s team would lose the the match against Nottingham Forest on December 28th 1989 and he would consequently be sacked.Fortunately for the world of football, United won the game 1-0 and went on to win the FA Cup during that season, ending a 23-year trophy dry spell. Sir Alex led United to win 38 trophies until his retirement from the game in 2013.

In the tech-startup world, where the odds are always against the founders, startups eventually fail when they run out of cash. Even the most successful startups came close to running out of money at some point. There are always things that go wrong (e.g. missed business deal, poor customer reviews, low employee morale, failed funding, etc.) and the swing between highs and lows is simply insane. Founders can get burned out, can hate each other and often consider quitting because their life feels like hell.

Most tech founders I know work really hard, as they believe that “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”. There is a lot to be said about perseverance, the ability to change things (aka pivot) and simply being there when the tide turns. As Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” If the product idea has legs, the founders listen to their customers, and they have the ability to time the market well, the story may have a very happy ending for them.

Airbnb now adds 30,000 new rooms every two weeks. In its first 1,000 days it launched five times before taking off. At some point the founders were selling boxes of cereal in order to be able to pay the bills. YCombinator offered them admission and Paul Graham famously said “You guys won’t die, you are like cockroaches”. For most of the world today, Airbnb seems like an overnight success, but the truth is that its founders are made of steel.

He also gives Pinterest and Snapchat as examples of perseverance.

You may just be a few steps away from greatness:

Lessons learned: a) Always love your mom. b) Make sure to survive and be there when the tide turns.

Easier said than done.

For every Airbnb, Pinterest, or Snapchat there are thousands of companies that did not make it.

my claim to fame: i was airbnb's very first booking!  :)  they were so stoked to get their first one that they printed and framed the booking confirmation and hung it on the wall!  and the two founders still keep in touch with me today.  they've done a great job with a great idea.

if you have a dream that won't let you go, that's because you are meant to do it!

and it can be tough!  the whole reason i was even renting out my bedroom on airbnb was because i was a starving artist determined to make an unconventional living!  and here's my short story about sticking with a dream:

I love your story of the Wish Dolls!

How did you hear about Airbnb so early to be their first booking? That's an incredible coincidence!

they found me on craigslist, where i was renting out my place already, and politely begged me to put my place on their site (which had the long name of i didn't jump right on it, because no one was there yet, but they (the three founders) sent me three very nice emails and i finally made a listing. then i got the first booking! it was sxsw in austin, texas, 2008.  they flew out from sf and we filmed a little interview.  that was the very beginning of their billion-dollar business!

That is so cool! And only 6 years ago!

so cool!  and yup, only 6 years ago... they have grown quickly and hugely!

They really have. Airbnb is everywhere now!

Niko Bonatsos writes, "Real entrepreneurs find solace in the struggle of trying to arrive at their Ithaca after a long journey. Most of the time their vessel sinks into the ocean. But the foolish, perseverant and ultimately lucky ones will eventually make it to Ithaca."

Ithaca poem C.P. Cavafy Never Give Up Medium

what a beautiful poem! i'm all goosebumpy!

Woody Allen's quote is often mistaken for perseverance when it's really about starting to simply do the work... to actually first create something that you can then persevere with:

"I made the statement years ago which is often quoted that 80 percent of life is showing up. People used to always say to me that they wanted to write a play, they wanted to write a movie, they wanted to write a novel, and the couple of people that did it were 80 percent of the way to having something happen. All the other people struck out without ever getting that pack. They couldn’t do it, that’s why they don’t accomplish a thing, they don’t do the thing, so once you do it, if you actually write your film script, or write your novel, you are more than half way towards something good happening. So that I was say my biggest life lesson that has worked. All others have failed me.”

Or, as I like to paraphrase, "It's hard to overcome the governing effects of a good start."  So simply start...

So it's like "the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step" ?

I think it's more like "complete the thousand mile journey and then you'll be 80% there towards getting corporate sponsors..."

1000 miles is a very good start.

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