Tiny Startup Camp

A tiny camp for making tiny startups.

November 10-11, 2012
Portland, Oregon

The Slow Play

In Poker, there’s a term called the Slow Play. Basically, you have a great or unbeatable hand, but rather than scare people out of the pot by aggressive raises, you play slow–and allow others to bet–allowing you to appear to have a weak hand (while secretly you plot to CRUSH them). Once the final cards are drawn, suddenly the player can become very aggressive, and the other players stay in (at this point committed to playing through the hand because of the money they’ve already bet).

The problems with the Slow Play are many, but one of the strengths is that if you truly have the best hand, you can make a lot more money by being passive and patient.

Now, let’s look at Tiny Startups. A lot of people get really impatient with startups, and want them to grow grow grow! They want to be making big money right away. And they want all the steps along the way to be easy, or easy to learn. Now, if any of that were true, nobody would be doing anything else but getting rich. It takes time, and patience, and having the right idea.

Don’t get me wrong, thanks to the internet and modern tools, I don’t know if it’s ever been easier to make money. With the right information and tools, you *can* have a profitable site up in days or weeks. However, if you’re new to this, it’s easy to be impatient and that’s going to hurt you in the end, like over-betting a strong hand in poker.

So, what’s it mean to be patient in practical terms?

It means trying several ideas while you master some of the basics. Your first idea will very likely not be the one that makes you money, but it may be the idea where you learn about Paid Search and SEO fundamentals. Your second idea may make some vacation money over the course of a year, but more importantly it could be where you start to really get your mind around landing-page optimization and A/B testing. Your third idea may be a total flop, but you learn how to better test demand, reach, and a marketing message.

Soon enough, you’ll stumble upon some idea that you feel really good about, that passes all your filters (more on those here). And you’ll realize that now you have all the tools in place to be aggressive.

Paleo Plan was probably my 10th idea that I started in some capacity, spread out over about 6 years (keep in mind, the available tools have become much much better since my early days). But it was still 18 months before Paleo Plan was profitable enough for me to quit my day job and focus 100% on it. However, had this been my first idea, it probably would have failed, not because of the idea, but because I’d still have been learning everything.

So, be patient. Know that you’re in this for the long haul, play slow and learn carefully. Your goal should be self-employment in a few years, not months. But if you stick with it, you’ll almost certainly get there.

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