‘Grit’ isn’t always good

Popular culture celebrates the strong man who never gives up; The man that takes a beating and dies for honour. I’ve explained my views on this before (read – Those Who Refuse To Surrender Are Stupid) but I want to explore them further here in regards to ideas.

Whilst exploring the Christmas shop displays of London, I paused for a coffee and joined the table of another. Conversation quickly struck up and I learnt he had a startup.

Fantastic! I thought. Then I listened to how his startup has been ‘starting’ for the last twelve years, how he sold his house to fund it, lost his job and longterm girlfriend to it and still received no investment prospects.

Unfortunately, this is the ugly side to many startup stories. The side that gets shunned and tucked away. No one remembers the dozens of social networks before Facebook.

Whether or not this man’s idea was good doesn’t matter. When it’s been twelve years and you have only losses to show, it is not, as he said, “…all about how much Grit you have, right?”.

No. ‘Grit’ isn’t always good. If no one else can see the profit in your idea, if no one is willing to stick up their hands and say “hey! If you make it, I’ll buy it!” then something’s wrong and I think it’s time to give up. Especially if it’s been t.w.e.l.v.e. y.e.a.r.s.

Plenty of successul entrepreneurs shout that it’s all about determination and hanging-on in there. Which is true for a lot of the time, but it isn’t a rule that you should follow all the time, just as you wouldn’t take all the must-have vitamins and supplements advertised on TV.

When you should give up and move on is a delicate question to answer. There are many variables depending on the industry you’re in, but by and large if people can’t see the problem you’re trying to solve, it probably doesn’t exist or isn’t big enough (yet).

Now, it is true that you can create a need/problem through advertising (quad-ply toilet roll with flower-embedded sheets, anyone?) and other methods, but it will cost you an arm and a leg – as the man in the coffee shop learnt the hard way.

In answer to his remark, that it’s all about how much Grit you have, I could only muster the balls to crack a joke rather than tell him what I really thought, “If only you were in the de-icing business”.


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