The ‘ideal runway’ is a myth, isn’t it?

When it comes to advice, tech loves standardization. Startups are often told that there are certain metrics to hit, deadlines to meet, timetables to measure themselves against.

Examples abound: Here’s the ideal amount of money to raise at your Series A round; here’s how many employees you should have before hiring this executive; here’s what stage to hire legal counsel; and, most recently, here’s what percentage of staff you should lay off if you’re unable to access more financing.

(The answer is 20% of staff, depending on who you ask).

There’s a response to some of these general statements: Startups are complicated, and one size certainly doesn’t fit all. But still, these startup standards help point companies in the right direction, at some point becoming the status quo.

That’s why when entrepreneur Paul Graham, the co-founder of Y Combinator, suggested that he’s seeing startups with 20 years of runway thanks to huge 2021 fundraises, it struck me. Isn’t the general advice that startups should have three years of runway? And if we’re in a more bullish market, 18 months?

My delayed reaction to this August tweet aside, let’s talk about runway. As you can tell by the headline of this piece, I think that the ideal length of runway is a myth — alongside other startup myths like more money equals more growth. By the end of this piece, you may agree.

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