Every startup founder knows implicitly that startup success is a long hard road. Yet we always dream that we are the exception to the rule. So once in a while it’s good to look at some facts to temper our imagination.
I was reading an old article written by marketing guru Seth Godin a while back where he mentions that “it takes about six years of hard work to become an overnight success.” Based on a small sample of household names from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg, he is an optimist. Here is some data from Wikipedia:
• Microsoft – Bill Gates founded Microsoft in 1974, to develop and sell BASIC interpreters for the Altair 8800. Six years later, he managed to land a contract with IBM to provide their IBM PC base operating system. Even still, it was another six years before Microsoft went public in 1986, making him an overnight success worth $350 million.
• Apple – It took Steve Jobs two decades to become an overnight dot-com billionaire. Established in Cupertino, California in 1975, Apple really didn’t get on the map until the advent of the Macintosh in 1984, nine years later. Even then, it struggled through the 80’s and 90’s, until the advent of the iMac and consumer products.
• Yahoo! – This company was founded by Jerry Yang and David Filo in January 1994. In April, 1996, Yahoo! had its initial public offering, raising $33.8 million, by selling 2.6 million shares at $13 each. Amazon.com and Yahoo! are the benchmarks in the industry for overnight success, but still required two to three years to really get going.
• Facebook – Mark Zuckerberg, while attending Harvard as a sophomore, concocted “Facemash” in 2002 to get a lost girlfriend off his mind. He later changed the name to Facebook. In 2005, Facebook still showed a yearly net loss of $3.63 million. But within five years it became an overnight success, and now has about 400 million users worldwide.