This Startup Savior Has a Message for Entrepreneurs: Ignore Silicon Valley
Nick Huber is leading a growing entrepreneurial movement that’s anti-unicorn—and pro-plumbing
It’s early evening in Athens, Georgia, and Nick Huber, entrepreneur and recently crowned startup expert, is about to record a podcast. Huber and his followers aren’t your typical founders. They don’t want to divine the next unicorn, launch a SPAC, raise a wad of eight-figure VC funding, or even break into a Y Combinator class. They have their eyes set on something more earthly, if not provocative: hatch a really solid pest control or lawn care business. “You ask anybody what entrepreneurship is, and they think of Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Shark Tank,” Huber says. “The real, true entrepreneurs in our society are just opportunists who start something to make a little bit of money. They start scrubbing driveways or painting houses.”
In a red T-shirt, fresh off of chopping onions for his family’s dinner, the 31-year-old Huber is rattling into an iPhone in almost stream-of-consciousness thoughts as he records a podcast about today’s subject, commercial real estate. He begins in a beige basement, wanders outside, spins around with the phone in hand (a college decathlete, he has the rangy restlessness of a serious runner), roams back inside, and keeps talking. This is a decidedly unpolished, unglamorous approach to startup culture that Huber, who owns a self-storage company, evangelizes. As Silicon Valley-size fantasies have punctured the imaginations of culture at large over the past decade, his message is practically heresy. Huber suggests entrepreneurs choose a dramatically different, but perhaps more lucrative, path: low-risk, uncompetitive businesses, rather than passionate, world-changing ideas.
It’s almost a 1950s approach to entrepreneurialism, and indeed, Huber himself can seem like a throwback, almost as if a midcentury efficiency expert had landed in 2021 and found all of us a little coddled.
He’s coined his approach “The Sweaty Startup” — now a podcast, a blog, an online course, and potentially a book — which gives it…