The Hype Cycle is Not Reality

Your competitors are growing 3,000% year on year. Your classmates from university are serial entrepreneurs on their 5th startup. A pop singer is running a venture capital fund in her spare time.

Everyday is full of headlines from the hype cycle. Why is it hype? Because attention is so scarce that the lowest common denominator is not the truth, but anything to get you to click. That 3,000% growth rate is growing from 1 user to 30. The serial entrepreneurs have 4 failed projects that they call startups. The pop singer hired her brother to run the venture capital fund and will lose all the money.

Why is this important? Because the hype cycle makes you feel the need to catch up with your own hype, throwing out useless vanity metrics to grab attention. Which simply perpetuates the cycle.

Does that mean you should stay in a cave, ignoring the outside world, focused only on improving your product? Of course not. You need to engage with the outside world and the hype cycle. If a story is really important for you to understand, dig deeper to ensure that all numbers are supported by reality and all quotes are taken in context. If you want to find out what is really going on behind the scenes, build a network of trusted contacts.

How about your public announcements? Yes, you need to make them interesting to get attention, so have a point of view and be willing to share your successes. But don’t make up facts and stories just to convince others, and yourself, that you are successful.

During the good times, people who focus too much on the hype cycle do well. But, during the bad times, they forget to adapt precisely because they have been fooled by their own hype. Don’t fool others. Don’t fool yourself. Focus on reality, not the hype cycle, and you can make progress through good times and bad.