“Launching startups is hard,” the exhausted founder said as he flopped into a chair across from my desk during my weekly office hours. He was clearly stressed, and I quickly realized our meeting was mostly going to be a venting session.
I didn’t mind. After a decade of teaching entrepreneurship and mentoring startup founders, I’ve learned that the job has very little to do with teaching any sort of entrepreneurship “hard skills.” Instead, teaching entrepreneurship means being more of a life coach than an educator, and one of the most valuable services any entrepreneurial mentor can provide is a friendly ear when a founder wants to vent.
“What’s going on that’s so hard?” I asked, embracing my job as a good listener.
“Our official launch date is two weeks from today,” he explained. “But everything is behind schedule. The website isn’t done. The app still has a bunch of bugs in it. Plus, the venue for the launch party is suddenly trying to force a three-drink minimum on us, and I’m like ‘what’s up with that?’”
“Launch party?” I repeated with a raised eyebrow.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah — sorry about that,” he apologized. “I’ve been meaning to send you an invite, but I keep forgetting. You’re obviously welcome. It’s two weeks from today… so not next Tuesday, but the Tuesday after.”
“Thanks,” I replied despite not actually being upset about the neglected invititation. “Out of curiosity, what’s the launch party for?”
“To announce our launch,” the founder answered along with a shrug. “We figure it’s a good way to drum up some early press and enthusiasm.”
“Or waste lots of time and money,” I countered.
To be clear, I love a good party, and, as I’ve recently written, startups should definitely host certain types of parties. But launch parties are never a good idea, which is a lesson I learned the expensive way after throwing what, at the time, was celebrated as an “epic” launch party for my first startup.