by Will Schreiber

Cocktail Party Entrepreneurs

I’ve been sick the last few days, hence the dry riverbed of blog posts.

I’m still not 100%, but feeling better. Thankfully I don’t have coronavirus. Just being within one BART ride of SFO gives this amateur hypochondriac all the fuel I need.

I’ve been thinking about how long it’s taken me to learn a simple fact: not everybody is going to like what I build.

In high school, my friends weren’t particularly interested in things I was building. None of my close friends bought the shirts I sold online. None of my close friends were eager to use the (bad) software I built.

I’ve since read stories about Sean Parker meeting all these crazy people online in IRC chatrooms. I didn’t know what IRC was, I’m not sure I knew anyone who knew what it was. But good for him. It’s likely that none of his geographically-close friends thought the hacking he was doing was cool. So he found his community of friends online.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve repeatedly made is trying to convince everyone that what I’m building is cool. It’s an unrealistic and dangerous path.

I call the chronic sufferers of this illness “Cocktail Party Entrepreneurs.”

Most people at cocktail parties run in the same general social circle, have somewhat interesting jobs, and live happy lives commuting to and from work and collecting paychecks and skiing on the weekends. These people are not interested in buying your SaaS. Your SaaS is boring.

When you describe what you do, the best you’ll get is, “Oh that’s interesting.” So it goes.

I used to suffer from this illness. And I’ve observed so many others try to impress the cocktail party crowd with their new shiny idea.

Instead of saying “we help local businesses resell over text,” suddenly the product serves everyone and solves some deep social problem. It involves Maths and machine learning. Cocktail Party Entrepreneurs lean into the need for validation that this problem is worth solving and that they’re wise to work on it.

This is a terrible path.

Only 1/100 people are going to “get it.” You’re better off getting 2/200 people to “get” your product than you are spending incredible energy and wasted hot air trying to get 2/100 people to “get” it.

The goal isn’t to impress the cocktail party. The sample size is too small.