People that want in to the secret garden of startup land seem to be of the opinion that all their startup idea needs is to get in to an incubator. It’s understandable to a degree as incubators have a really awesome value proposition! And let me preface this one-sided discussion with the statement that I am neither for nor against fundraising or incubators or what have you. I haven’t made a damn dollar from my start up yet so it would be fucking naive of me to pass judgement.

The experience I can speak from dictates that when Revisu got accepted to Portland Incubator Experiment I had assumed that someone else would be looking out for me, I wouldn’t have to work too hard on the shit I didn’t want to do, and it was only a matter of time  before I got my million dollar check.

Turns out this is really really not true and, since I think this is a pretty common belief, the sooner we collectively understand this the better off we’ll be. Indeed, even raising money–another major “milestone” in most startup peoples’ minds–does not symbolize the end, but just another beginning. Perhaps startups are really just a sequence of beginnings.

What is a startup’s ending anyway?

That’s pretty subjective, I guess. Perhaps it’s a significant liquidity event, or some kind of merger, or perhaps you wind it down because someone (probably you) fucked up. My opinion is that if you can go on a vacation and both afford it and not spend the whole time worrying too much, your job is close to over probably. But again I’m pretty new to this weird game.

Y Combinator does not a millionaire make.

I used to be of the opinion that if you made it in to Y Combinator, you were set for life. After all, your Pokemon daily deals text message startup obviously passed the YC interview test, so it was only a matter of time before you got the call from Google about your exit, right?

When I saw a YC company fail, I was always left scratching my head. If these people were the best of the best per the Paul Graham test, how could they possibly fail? Turns out, if you somehow make it in to an incubator, you aren’t magically blessed as an entrepreneur.

Here’s where it gets awesome.

Incubators succeed in giving you the support you need to take your company to the next level, and in making you ultimately responsible for getting it there. This is where your journey to becoming an entrepreneur gets really exciting.

This weekend, I spent 26 hours working on Revisu. I absolutely loved every second of it. Not only did I get to work on some really interesting problems–both technical and non-technical–but they were problems that we (my partner and I) identified in our quest to build my our company.

Half of loving the crazy hours is having the support of a community behind you. As a for instance, a thread was started yesterday on the PIE mailing list, and within 15 minutes there were 10 replies to it. On a Saturday afternoon. Do you know of any group of individuals of which more than a third of them would reply to an email thread because they were working on a Saturday afternoon?

So just getting in to an incubator won’t make you a millionaire. Hell, it really doesn’t give you a huge leg up over someone that decides to go it alone. But, it does give you access to a community of like-minded people, a lot of ins to your local tech scene, and maybe a little cash to get you started. And that’s a really great way to get started starting up.