Startups: The Chasm Between What People Say and What They Mean

The beautiful part of founding a social startup is that, in the early stages, you get to meet all sorts of wonderful people and delve into their thoughts and curiosities. The less attractive part is that your startup relies entirely on people. And people tend to be fickle. Or they tend to avoid the harsh truths, or even make up answers that they themselves would like to hear.

What is it about human nature that makes us conceal the truth so deep inside us that we almost lose track of it? Is it the fear of being rejected? Or perhaps the vulnerability of being exposed for what we truly are?

Bookups was born from the idea of bringing people together around a book they all read and enjoyed. We pivoted a bit since that, but that is how it all started. And beginnings tend to say a lot about startups. Or at least, they should, if the co-founders stay true to their principles.

In order to validate the early version of Bookups, we started off in the most rudimentary way possible: simply by asking people if they would be willing to meet and discuss the book or material they were reading with people they had never met before, but who shared their interests and passion.

You probably can guess what the majority (70%) said. It was a big, fat YES. So naturally, we thought we had validation. But apparently, we didn’t take into account that between what people say and what people truly mean…. is a distance that no information or supposition could cover.

The fact of the matter is that when it came to attending an actual event based on the reading material of interest (book, article, story etc) very few people delivered. And by that, I mean showed up or even took an interest in the event.

We tend to think of ourselves in terms of what we would like to become. We tend to see the potential of what could/should be, instead of the reality of what is. And while this may be beneficial from a psychological perspective (the whole “dream big” commercial), it is not helpful business-wise. We create a reality which has more to do with our false perception of ourselves, rather than our true desires. Our Alter Jane and Joe Does may be ambitious enough to crave heart to heart poetry nights, and mind to mind discussions on Harari’s “Sapiens”, but what we truly desire is a quiet night of Netflix.

So what about Bookups then? Well, let’s just say we learnt not to rely on people’s words so much. Instead, we watch out for their reactions, their behavior during events, their facial expression and body language. Ironically enough, when it comes to social startups, it’s not the words that count, but rather what is left unsaid.



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TalkTheTalk is the result of a journey of discovery filled with excitement, sweat, life experiences & a passion for exploring human ideas together with others. We thank the AC running this simulation for allowing us to seek an answer to our question. However, it will not be our last--