Silver bullets

Silver bullets

Prior to founding Lawn Love, I used to run another startup in the home services space. We competed directly with companies like Homejoy, Handy, and Exec, all of which were founded by well-connected entrepreneurs who had raised millions of dollars in early venture funding.

I would often look at these companies and marvel at how easily they were able to do things that seemed terribly difficult to me. Press flowed effortlessly, funding fell from the sky, and their growth charts curved endlessly up-and-to-the-right.

Looking in from the outside, I could only assume they possessed secret advantages that I lacked access to. These silver bullets were objects of both mystery and no small amount of jealousy, and I would often wonder what life would be like if I had access to the same success-making secrets.

Let me fast forward a bit: Despite these perceived disadvantages, our company still did well, and we ended up getting acquired a year or so later. Immediately after the acquisition wrapped I set about building Lawn Love, hustled like a maniac for six months, and ended up getting into Y Combinator.

I remember when I received that phone call from YC. One of the first thoughts that crossed my mind was that I now had access to these fabled silver bullets that seemingly worked so well. Wide vistas of opportunity would be opened to me, and challenges that were once difficult would be rendered trivial.

In short, I had it made.

But let me let you in on a little secret, one which I discovered just days into the program: There are, in fact, no silver bullets. Silver bullets are a myth; the product of ignorance and perpetuated by human nature. To believe in silver bullets is to routinely substitute effort with excuses, the effects of which are self-fulfilling.

Startups are intrinsically hard, but from an external perspective it’s easy to feel like other people’s companies are vastly more polished and functional than your own. The truth is that nearly all startups are various degrees of broken, often severely so. This may not be visible to outside observers, as founders are often under pressure to tailor perceptions and be seen to be “crushing it” all the time, but it’s nearly always the case.

Now here’s a great paradox for you: If a silver bullet did exist, it would probably take the form of the realization that silver bullets don’t exist.

Abandoning this myth is in itself a form of silver bullet, as it frees you to focus on building, executing, and winning to the best of your ability. Great things don’t come easy, but it helps to know they are within reach.

As for those seemingly advantaged founders from earlier? Adora from Homejoy initially had a very hard time raising money, and ended up iterating on startup ideas for years before finding something that stuck. Justin from Exec wasn’t born internet-famous. He ground, pounded, and hustled his way to notability. They didn’t have any silver bullets, neither do I, and neither do you.

Now, divested of that myth, go and build something amazing.

Jeremy Yamaguchi