Hunting Unicorns

These emails fall into my inbox regularly:

“Hi Everyone,

Me and my five business partners are working on a system does that <insert tough problem here> for people but we’re missing the <insert hard part here> to actually finish it up.  Our <insert engineer/programmer> is beyond his knowledge.  Do you know anyone?


A. Founder

PS – we can’t afford to hire any of the experts who consult on this stuff for a living.”

When I read these emails, I picture the sender out in a forest with their merry band and magic sword looking for unicorns.  They want a magical being to parachute in and do the dirty technical work.  Problem is these people are betting their whole business on finding a unicorn.

When these folks ask for advice, I tell them: “Either you’re the right people to build this business or you aren’t.”

A founding team in this spot has two options:

  1. Become the unicorn.  Develop a plan.  That might be shadowing experts in the field (“Can I follow you around for a couple of months?  You don’t have to pay me.”) or taking a job where they pay you to learn.  Or, locking yourself in a room and learning how to do it yourself.  It’s hard work.
  2. Find a different solution to build.  Ideally, one that matches your skill set.

If someone needs help with becoming their unicorn, mentors are happy to help.  In the meantime, people should stop asking to be introduced to unicorns.  There aren’t any.

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