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Alexis Tryon says your idea sucks and you should build it anyway

“Your idea sucks. It’s probably really bad.” These are the words of encouragement Alexis Tryon, co-founder of Artsicle, chose to share with this morning’s Big Omaha crowd at KANEKO. “If it’s anything like mine,” she continued, “it’s probably terrible. And if you’re lucky, someone is willing to pay for it.”

Have delusional self-confidence

When Tryon and co-founder Scott Carleton launched Artsicle, an art rental site, in 2010, they described it as Netflix + Sotheby’s for art. “I have no idea what that means,” Tryon confessed. But, she said, she believed strongly in getting artists’ work on more walls around the world. After three pivots, the latest of which was just last year, “we’re finally building the platform we wanted to build.”

To stave off the temptation to quit after new iterations and failed experiments, she suggested having a few tools: delusional self-confidence, friends and co-founders, and a world-changing dream.

Normal, healthy self-confidence is not going to cut it, according to Tryon. “You’ve got to believe it beyond what your mother can back up,” she said. “We needed investors, and they needed to believe in us.”

Have friends and co-founders

Tryon groups her support network into two main groups: “normals” and “founder friends.” The normals, she said, are her non-tech friends. “They only care about me. They couldn’t care less about Artsicle.” These people keep her grounded and in perspective. 

Her founder friends also provide perspective but from a specifically entrepreneurial point of view. “We have one rule,” Tryon said. “When I ask, ‘How are you doing?’ the answer is not ‘I’m crushing it.’ It has to be something real.” When your peers know what you’re really facing—your best employee is quitting or your bank account is empty—Tryon suggested they’re better able to put the right opportunities in front of you. “They’ll increase your luck surface area.”

Have a world-changing dream

This can’t be just any dream, she cautioned. Working on something bigger than yourself will keep you going. “For me, that was about artists. I realized I was passionate about getting artists’ work on your walls. I knew the only way that was going to happen was me doing something about it.”

“Running out of money is never going to kill a company,” she said. “Companies die when you stop working.”


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