Elon Musk thinks this is too much for most humans to bear. Most startup companies fail.

JC jawe.sol
3 min readMar 4, 2020

Odds are, a startup launched today will fail. In fact, three out of four venture-backed companies don’t return investors’ capital, and half of all new businesses close their doors before they’ve been open five years.

Failure is a constant in entrepreneurship. But…is it something the human brain is actually equipped, evolutionarily speaking, to deal with? Prolific inventor and serial entrepreneur Elon Musk, speaking last week at the New York Times Dealbook conference in New York City, got talking about the extreme strain entrepreneurship puts on a founder. He said: “Creating a company is a very difficult thing. A friend of mine has a saying: ‘Starting a company is like eating glass and staring into the abyss.’ You have to do lots of things you don’t like.”

He continued:

You have to put in incredible amounts of efforts and huge amounts of stress — and it’s much more painful than most people realize. And most companies die. On a certain level in your brain, your brain — we didn’t evolve, like, with companies; we evolved to respond to real death. And even though a company’s death is not real, it’s not like someone is physically dying, your brain doesn’t quite understand that on the limbic system level. So it’s really sort of painfully stressful. You probably don’t want to go through that more than once.

Many of you have probably heard this quote from the legend himself, Elon Musk. I couldn’t agree more — running/building a company is one of the hardest things on earth (and beyond 😉 )!

“Running a start-up is like chewing glass and staring into the abyss. After a while, you stop staring, but the glass chewing never ends”. -Elon Musk

Many people don’t know this about Elon, but his first big, successful venture was called Zip2 and it was one of the first online directories (imagine Yelp meets Google Maps).

While working/founding Zip2, Elon mainly focused on coding while he allowed outside investors/businessmen take over the business operations of the company. There were a lot of scuffles and in-house issues. Elon Musk battles for the CEO position, but was denied by the board.

Elon is said to have a very intense personality — a trait that is pretty much required when your job description is building rocket ships, electric cars, and solar roofs. Adopting an intense personality…

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