Reid Hoffman: Don’t Go All In On One Startup Idea

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This morning, Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha took the stage at South by Southwest to discuss their new book, The Start-Up of You.

Hoffman harped on taking risks and how important they are for your career.  The risks have to be intelligent ones though, and they have to be ones you can recover from if everything goes wrong.

When starting his first company, Hoffman says he talked to his dad. His dad was worried about how uncertain an entrepreneur’s career can be. 

“I told him, ‘My first startup may be a risk, but I’m going to play it in a way that I’m able to do several of them and build several startups.’ There’s a good chance you’ll succeed in one startup if you try three or four.”

Hoffman says his first startup, Socialnet, was not a success — at least not by Silicon Valley standards. But he was able to leverage his personal network and join PayPal at the same time, which was a success. 

Even with LinkedIn, Hoffman still says he wasn’t “all-in” on one startup idea.

“I wasn’t all in in a way — like promising everyone that social networking would be the biggest thing ever.  But I said I would keep trying things until they eventually worked.”

Hoffman says people don’t find risk, risk finds them. 

He concluded with a quote from Muhammad Yumas who said, “All humans were born entrepreneurs. In the caves, we were all self-employed.”