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Ramen Profitable

Ramen Profitable 拉面(方便面)盈利的大意是有饭吃就行,指公司处于一种盈利覆盖支出的状态,便永远不会死。

Now that the term “ramen profitable” has become widespread, I ought to explain precisely what the idea entails.
既然“拉面盈利”这个术语已经广为流传,我应该精确地解释一下这个概念的内涵。
Ramen profitable means a startup makes just enough to pay the founders’ living expenses. This is a different form of profitability than startups have traditionally aimed for. Traditional profitability means a big bet is finally paying off, whereas the main importance of ramen profitability is that it buys you time. [1]
拉面盈利意味着创业公司的收入足够支付创始团队的生活费用。这是一种不同于创业公司传统目标的盈利形式。传统的盈利能力意味着大赌注终于有了回报,而拉面盈利能力的重要性在于它为你赢得了时间。
In the past, a startup would usually become profitable only after raising and spending quite a lot of money. A company making computer hardware might not become profitable for 5 years, during which they spent $50 million. But when they did they might have revenues of $50 million a year. This kind of profitability means the startup has succeeded.
在过去,创业公司通常只有在筹集并投入大量资金后才能实现盈利。一家生产电脑硬件的公司在 5 年内可能无法盈利,在此期间他们花费了 5000 万美元。但当他们这么做的时候,他们可能每年有 5000 万美元的收入。这种盈利能力意味着创业公司已经成功了。
Ramen profitability is the other extreme: a startup that becomes profitable after 2 months, even though its revenues are only $3000 a month, because the only employees are a couple 25 year old founders who can live on practically nothing. Revenues of $3000 a month do not mean the company has succeeded. But it does share something with the one that’s profitable in the traditional way: they don’t need to raise money to survive.
拉面盈利是另一个极端:一家创业公司在两个月后就开始盈利,尽管它的收入只有每月3000美元,因为公司的员工只有一对25岁的创始人,他们几乎什么都不用。每月3000美元的收入并不意味着公司已经成功了。但它与那些以传统方式盈利的公司有一些共同之处:它们不需要筹集资金来生存。
Ramen profitability is an unfamiliar idea to most people because it only recently became feasible. It’s still not feasible for a lot of startups; it would not be for most biotech startups, for example; but it is for many software startups because they’re now so cheap. For many, the only real cost is the founders’ living expenses.
对大多数人来说,拉面盈利是一个陌生的想法,因为它最近才变得可行。这对很多创业公司来说仍然不可行。例如,大多数生物技术初创公司就不是这样,但对许多软件初创公司来说,情况确实如此,因为它们现在太便宜了。对许多人来说,唯一真正的成本是创始人的生活费用。
The main significance of this type of profitability is that you’re no longer at the mercy of investors. If you’re still losing money, then eventually you’ll either have to raise more or shut down. Once you’re ramen profitable this painful choice goes away. You can still raise money, but you don’t have to do it now.
这种盈利模式的主要意义在于你不再受投资者的摆布。如果你仍在亏损,那么最终你要么筹集更多资金,要么关门大吉。一旦你赚钱了,这种痛苦的选择就消失了。你仍然可以筹集资金,但你不必现在就去做。

***

The most obvious advantage of not needing money is that you can get better terms. If investors know you need money, they’ll sometimes take advantage of you. Some may even deliberately stall, because they know that as you run out of money you’ll become increasingly pliable.
不需要钱最明显的好处是你可以得到更好的条件。如果投资者知道你需要钱,他们有时会利用你,有些人甚至会故意拖延,因为他们知道,当你把钱花光时,你会变得越来越任人宰割。
But there are also three less obvious advantages of ramen profitability. One is that it makes you more attractive to investors. If you’re already profitable, on however small a scale, it shows that (a) you can get at least someone to pay you, (b) you’re serious about building things people want, and © you’re disciplined enough to keep expenses low.
拉面的盈利能力还有三个不太明显的优势。一是它会让你对投资者更有吸引力。如果你已经盈利了,无论规模有多小,这表明(a)你至少能让人付钱给你(b)你很认真的制造人们想要的东西©你有足够的纪律性来保持低成本。
This is reassuring to investors, because you’ve addressed three of their biggest worries. It’s common for them to fund companies that have smart founders and a big market, and yet still fail. When these companies fail, it’s usually because (a) people wouldn’t pay for what they made, e.g. because it was too hard to sell to them, or the market wasn’t ready yet, (b) the founders solved the wrong problem, instead of paying attention to what users needed, or © the company spent too much and burned through their funding before they started to make money. If you’re ramen profitable, you’re already avoiding these mistakes.
这让投资者放心,因为你解决了他们最担心的三个问题。他们经常投资那些拥有聪明的创始人和巨大市场的公司,但仍然失败。当这些公司失败时,通常是因为(a)人们不会支付,如因为它太难以出售或市场没有准备好(b)创始人解决了错误的问题,而不是关注用户需要什么©公司花了太多,在他们开始赚钱之前烧掉了他们的资金。如果你是盈利的,你已经避免了这些错误。
Another advantage of ramen profitability is that it’s good for morale. A company tends to feel rather theoretical when you first start it. It’s legally a company, but you feel like you’re lying when you call it one. When people start to pay you significant amounts, the company starts to feel real. And your own living expenses are the milestone you feel most, because at that point the future flips state. Now survival is the default, instead of dying.
拉面盈利的另一个好处是有利于鼓舞士气。当你刚开始的时候,一个公司往往让你觉得很理论化。它是一家合法的公司,但当你称它为公司时,你会觉得自己在撒谎。当人们开始付给你可观的薪水时,公司才会感觉真实。而你自己的生活开支是你感觉最重要的里程碑,因为在那个时候,未来会翻转状态。现在,生存是默认事实,而不是死亡。

A morale boost on that scale is very valuable in a startup, because the moral weight of running a startup is what makes it hard. Startups are still very rare. Why don’t more people do it? The financial risk? Plenty of 25 year olds save nothing anyway. The long hours? Plenty of people work just as long hours in regular jobs. What keeps people from starting startups is the fear of having so much responsibility. And this is not an irrational fear: it really is hard to bear.

Anything that takes some of that weight off you will greatly increase your chances of surviving.

在创业公司中,如此大规模的士气提升是非常有价值的,因为经营创业公司的道德压力是让创业变得困难的原因。创业公司仍然非常少。为什么没有更多的人去做呢?金融风险?很多25岁的年轻人什么都不存。长时间的工作吗?很多人在正常工作中工作的时间也一样长。阻碍人们创业的原因是害怕承担太多责任。这并不是一种非理性的恐惧:它确实令人难以忍受。

任何能减轻你压力的东西都会大大增加你的生存机会。

A startup that reaches ramen profitability may be more likely to succeed than not. Which is pretty exciting, considering the bimodal distribution of outcomes in startups: you either fail or make a lot of money.
一家创收拉面的初创公司成功的可能性更大。这很令人兴奋,考虑到创业的结果的双峰分布:你要么失败,要么赚很多钱。
The fourth advantage of ramen profitability is the least obvious but may be the most important. If you don’t need to raise money, you don’t have to interrupt working on the company to do it.
拉面盈利的第四个优势是最不明显的,但可能是最重要的。如果你不需要筹集资金,你就不必为了筹集资金而中断公司的工作。
Raising money is terribly distracting. You’re lucky if your productivity is a third of what it was before. And it can last for months.
筹集资金非常让人分心,如果你的工作效率只有以前的三分之一,那你就很幸运了。而它可以持续几个月。
I didn’t understand (or rather, remember) precisely why raising money was so distracting till earlier this year. I’d noticed that startups we funded would usually grind to a halt when they switched to raising money, but I didn’t remember exactly why till YC raised money itself. We had a comparatively easy time of it; the first people I asked said yes; but it took months to work out the details, and during that time I got hardly any real work done. Why? Because I thought about it all the time.
直到今年早些时候,我才明白(或者更确切地说,我还记得)为什么筹集资金会让人如此分心。我注意到,当我们投资的初创公司开始融资时,他们通常会陷入停顿,但我不记得 YC 自己融资之前为什么会这样。因为我们做得比较轻松;我问的第一个人就答应了融资,但我花了好几个月的时间来解决细节问题,在这段时间里,我几乎没有完成任何实质性的工作。为什么?因为我一直在想这件事。
At any given time there tends to be one problem that’s the most urgent for a startup. This is what you think about as you fall asleep at night and when you take a shower in the morning. And when you start raising money, that becomes the problem you think about. You only take one shower in the morning, and if you’re thinking about investors during it, then you’re not thinking about the product.

任何时候,创业公司都有一个最紧迫的问题。这是你在晚上入睡和早上洗澡时所想到的。当你开始筹集资金时,这就成了你要考虑的问题。你早上只洗一次澡,如果你在洗澡的时候想到了投资者,那么你就不会想到产品。

被 rasie money 占据最高优先级。

Whereas if you can choose when you raise money, you can pick a time when you’re not in the middle of something else, and you can probably also insist that the round close fast. You may even be able to avoid having the round occupy your thoughts, if you don’t care whether it closes.
然而,如果你可以选择何时融资,你可以选择一个没有其他事情的间隔。如果你不关心融资是否会失败,你也可以坚持快速结束这一轮,你甚至可以避免让它占据你的思想。

***

Ramen profitable means no more than the definition implies. It does not, for example, imply that you’re “bootstrapping” the startup—that you’re never going to take money from investors. Empirically that doesn’t seem to work very well. Few startups succeed without taking investment. Maybe as startups get cheaper it will become more common. On the other hand, the money is there, waiting to be invested. If startups need it less, they’ll be able to get it on better terms, which will make them more inclined to take it. That will tend to produce an equilibrium. [2]
拉面盈利并不比它的定义更多。例如,这并不意味着你是在“引导”初创企业——也就是说你永远不会从投资者那里拿钱。从经验上看,这似乎不太管用。很少有创业公司不投资就能成功。也许随着创业成本的降低,这种做法会越来越普遍。另一方面,钱就在那里,等着你去投资。如果创业公司不那么需要它,他们就能以更好的条件得到它,这将使他们更倾向于接受它。这将趋向于产生一个平衡。
Another thing ramen profitability doesn’t imply is Joe Kraus’s idea that you should put your business model in beta when you put your product in beta. He believes you should get people to pay you from the beginning. I think that’s too constraining. Facebook didn’t, and they’ve done better than most startups. Making money right away was not only unnecessary for them, but probably would have been harmful. I do think Joe’s rule could be useful for many startups, though. When founders seem unfocused, I sometimes suggest they try to get customers to pay them for something, in the hope that this constraint will prod them into action.

另一件拉面盈利能力不能暗示的事情是Joe Kraus的想法,即当你把你的产品放入测试时,你应该把你的商业模式放入测试。他认为,你应该从一开始就让人们付钱给你。我认为这太拘束了。Facebook没有,而且他们比大多数初创公司做得更好。马上赚钱对他们来说不仅没有必要,而且可能会有害。不过,我确实认为乔的规则对很多初创公司都有用。当创始人看起来注意力不集中时,我有时会建议他们尝试让客户为某些东西付钱,希望这种约束能促使他们采取行动。

是否商业化要看情况。

The difference between Joe’s idea and ramen profitability is that a ramen profitable company doesn’t have to be making money the way it ultimately will. It just has to be making money. The most famous example is Google, which initially made money by licensing search to sites like Yahoo.
Joe 的想法和拉面盈利能力的区别在于,一家拉面盈利的公司不一定要按照它最终的方式赚钱。它必须要赚钱。最著名的例子是谷歌,它最初通过授权给雅虎这样的网站来赚钱。
Is there a downside to ramen profitability? Probably the biggest danger is that it might turn you into a consulting firm. Startups have to be product companies, in the sense of making a single thing that everyone uses. The defining quality of startups is that they grow fast, and consulting just can’t scale the way a product can. [3] But it’s pretty easy to make $3000 a month consulting; in fact, that would be a low rate for contract programming. So there could be a temptation to slide into consulting, and telling yourselves you’re a ramen profitable startup, when in fact you’re not a startup at all.
拉面的盈利能力有负面影响吗?可能最大的危险是,它可能会把你变成一家咨询公司。创业公司必须是产品公司,从制造每个人都使用的单一产品的意义上来说。对于初创公司来说,最重要的是他们成长迅速,而咨询公司无法像产品那样扩大规模。但是一个月赚 3000 美元的咨询费是很容易的;事实上,这对于合同来说是很低的价格。所以可能会有一种进入咨询行业的诱惑,告诉自己你是一家盈利的初创公司,而实际上你根本不是一家初创公司。
It’s ok to do a little consulting-type work at first. Startups usually have to do something weird at first. But remember that ramen profitability is not the destination. A startup’s destination is to grow really big; ramen profitability is a trick for not dying en route.
一开始做一些咨询类的工作是可以的。刚开始的时候,创业公司通常会做一些奇怪的事情。但请记住,拉面的盈利并不是目的。创业公司的目标是发展壮大,拉面盈利是一种避免在途中死亡的技巧。

Notes

[2] There’s a good chance that a shift in power from investors to founders would actually increase the size of the venture business. I think investors currently err too far on the side of being harsh to founders. If they were forced to stop, the whole venture business would work better, and you might see something like the increase in trade you always see when restrictive laws are removed.

Investors are one of the biggest sources of pain for founders; if they stopped causing so much pain, it would be better to be a founder; and if it were better to be a founder, more people would do it.

[2]很有可能,权力从投资者向创始人的转移实际上会扩大风投业务的规模。我认为目前投资者对创始人太过苛刻了。如果他们被迫停止,整个风险投资业务会运转得更好,你可能会看到一些类似于当限制性法律被取消时经常看到的贸易增长。

投资者是创始人最大的痛苦来源之一;如果他们不再造成这么大的痛苦,做创始人会更好;如果做创始人更好,会有更多的人这样做。

[3] It’s conceivable that a startup could grow big by transforming consulting into a form that would scale. But if they did that they’d really be a product company.
可以想象,一家初创公司可以通过将咨询业务转变为一种可扩展的形式来发展壮大。但如果他们这么做了,他们就真的是一家产品公司了。

Reference