I haven’t blogged in forever, partly because I haven’t had time for the blogging itself (or really the mental energy…as I’d mentioned in a previous post, it’s really all about energy management rather than time management) but mostly because I haven’t had the time to really process the experiences I’ve been going through.
I won’t go into detail about these experiences in this post since there’s really just one point I want to hit hard — when starting a company (or really doing anything hard perhaps), if you are decently smart, persistent, resourceful, ambitious, and hard working, you can make anything work. Up until a point. That point might be measured by time, growth, revenue/profitability, number of users … point is (heh, pun), if you have the above characteristics, you can find an area to consult in.
A consulting company is not a startup. Or at least in our colloquial definition of a startup, which is generally a company capable, eventually, of exponential growth at relatively little incremental labor.
The scary part is that you might be able to build a several million $ company that actually is not a startup and not realize it until a few, labor-intensive years in.
This makes me recall 2 things from my college/intern days that I now understand with more nuance/depth:
1. There are countless $1 million checks lying on the ground just waiting for you to pick them up – true but you have to work your butt off. You can earn several million with a lot of hustling and hard work and risk taking…that never ends. Or you can just get a job that pays you a good fraction of that but gives you nights and weekends and significantly reduces your risk. There’s a reason why most people choose the latter.
2. I’ve been told multiple times that the most important quality VCs look for in founders is self awareness / honesty. Basically the ability to see it as it is and act accordingly, with as little bias from ego and other non-reality-based influences as possible. This is hard. It’s hard to look at something you’ve built and say hey, this isn’t going to turn into a startup, so I’m just going to walk away now. The easier route (surprisingly) is to say hey, I’m going to work a little harder for just a little longer…isn’t popular lore all about “the dip” before success and persisting through failure?
Ever since the Lean Startup craze, people have gotten pretty pivot-happy. I don’t have a lot of anecdotal evidence from people other than myself, but, man, after the first pivot, you realize that it’s no walk in the park. Individuals shouldn’t treat themselves as lottery tickets and neither should startups. After more than one pivot, I really think one should really take a good look at either one’s understanding of the space or ability to aim before firing.
To persist through all this and make it, I think you really have to
1. View this as something you’re fully committed to – if you’re going to build a company, at some point, you have to commit to it for life. You have to at least have the confidence to believe it’ll last that long and that you would want to stay at the helm. The amount of work and persistence through failure necessary to grow something from nothing is hard to surmount otherwise.
2. Be a little crazy. :)