Being in a new industry is hard. The future is uncertain, the resources can be scant, lows can be very low, and the right way to do things can be unclear. But for the adventurous and entrepreneurial, none of these are deterrents.
New industries offer an opportunity to capture a tremendous amount of value, to take first-mover advantage, and to impact the world in a significant way. But there are a few more perks to young industries which most people probably don’t consider. These can help to justify the risk of jumping in to something new. So I hope they’re encouraging to those of you considering startups:
- Instant brand sex appeal – Journalists love to cover up and coming industries. Companies gladly pick up cold calls from companies in new and sexy industries. Consumers love taking part in something new. This makes your job (especially if you’re a marketing, sales, or PR person) a bit easier, with more opportunities for experimentation.
- Instant camaraderie – One of the joys of being in a new industry is sharing experiences – good and bad – with other disruptors. You’ve probably been through many of the same challenges as another company in your space, so when you come together, you can find much to laugh, commiserate, and learn about. The story of your company is probably not so different from that of your neighbor’s company.
- Time dilation/life “extension” – As Paul Graham has noted, a startup is a great way to condense working life into a few years. You’ll notice this as you jump in. Two months will start to feel like a year, and a year will start to feel like a decade. Because the days are so full of novel challenges and experiences, your memory of those days will be full as well. Four years spent at a company in a new space can feel like eight, making your life feel like a longer and fuller thing.
- No rules/expectations – In new industries, while many old rules apply, many new ones are yours to create (or to not create). You can follow the best practices if you want to, or you can try to see what works in a new dynamic. Want to do sales via Instagram? No problem. Want to use a new, untested programming language? You might as well. Expectations are low, too, so you can get away with not conforming to many of the harmful and wasteful philosophies and policies people expect of big companies, from rigid hierarchy to mandatory “social responsibility” play-acting.