As a Founder, no one really understands WTF we do other than another Founder. Our lives are basically attending a bunch of events where the conversation goes something like this:
Friend: "So, how is that startup thing you're doing?"
Founder: "It's going well (not true), but our burn rate is pretty significant and I don't know if we'll be able to raise another round of cash."
Friend: "Oh, OK. So what is it that you do again?"
Does this sound familiar? Look, I've been a startup Founder for nearly 30 years and to this day most of my family thinks "I do something with computers." This is pretty standard fare, but for first-time Founders, it often feels like this bizarre version of the Matrix that we're living in where we're the only people that...
I've failed numerous times and watched countless other Founders do the same. We kept ourselves awake nonstop worrying about the outcome of our failures. We took years off of our life and put ourselves in horrible places mentally and physically.
And you know what we learned in the end? It generally didn't matter.
That's right, our "fear of failure" was always 100x worse than how the failure itself played out. And so we took desperate measures to avoid failure, like clearing the last of our savings, running up debt, and going yet another year without pay. At some point, we became far more intent on "not failing" than succeeding.
What we need is a method for dissecting failure into actionable bits.
If we think ab...
We spend countless years getting our startups to an "exit." We all know that once we hit that promised land, everything will finally be OK. We'll satisfy our investors, our employee stockholders, and finally pay back all that debt we created. We'll get a vacation — a real one this time! We'll get back in the gym, we'll pick our hobbies back up, we may even find out what our kid's names are ("Chad, right?".. "No, Dad, I'm Jen.")
All of this will be an atomic mushroom cloud that lands us to what we've always been promised — validation.
We'll validate ourselves from the haters and naysayers. We'll walk into rooms full of important people who will all look at us and say "Can you believe what an amazing thing that woman did?" We'll get instant r...
For some reason, Founders are incredibly "shy" about giving themselves a raise.
It's odd really because we are responsible for looking out for the futures of so many other people, yet we often shortchange ourselves when it comes to our own needs. The reality is, our raises tend to come last, and in many cases, not at all.
So when is the appropriate time to pull ourselves aside and award that long-overdue raise?
For many of us, the default answer on when our salary goes up (or down) is based on our ongoing Net Income. If we make more money, we take some home. If we lose a bunch, well, those credit card balances and Home Equity lines just keep growing... and growing...
That said, basing all of our "salary...
Most Founders get rich without ever exiting their business. Yes, you read that right. We don't have to build a rocket ship that takes on gobs of funding for an IPO in order to have everything we want.
We just need to keep making money (and not even that much!)
While to most people this may sound obvious, in the startup world we tend to forget how this simple fact works. We keep thinking in terms of this big liquidity event where we get handed a giant check like we just won the Powerball. We picture ringing the bell on NASDAQ wearing the only nice outfit we own shaking hands with bankers and smiling for the camera.
And in the end, we picture having enough money to just do whatever the eff we want.
I spend a ridiculous amo...
A few years back I was driving through a windy street of Bel-Air with my wife, looking at houses. If you ever want to feel ridiculously poor, I encourage you to do the same.
During our home tour we drove up beside a house under construction that was so big, we thought it was a hotel. We just kept driving around the perimeter of the house, and it just kept going! Our realtor told us it was the future home of Elon Musk.
A younger version of me would have said "Someday I'm going to have that house!" and believed wholeheartedly that there were some future series of events that would lead to that outcome. It's the blessing and curse of being a Founder I think.
I turned to my wife and said "I can't have that — and that's OK." Let me explain why t...
There we are, once again, sitting at yet another Founder get-together while everyone tells us how great their startups are doing. Oh shit, that woman just said that they raised a massive round of funding. That guy just said he just surpassed 100 employees. The other person (I'm losing count) just claimed they are growing 50% per month.
"WTF? I thought I was doing great and now listening to everyone else I feel like a total loser."
And there it is. The age-old startup-sizing "competition" where we indeliberately one-up each other with how amazing our startups are doing. In the process, we all make each other feel miserable about ourselves.
What's that? You don't do that at get-togethers? Well, if you're like most, you're doing it anyway in s...
Raising money isn't just about getting some cash in the bank, it's about committing to a very different path to building our startup.
And there's sorta no going back.
What no one told us going into the capital-raising game was that once we take money from investors, we're basically locked into a handful of outcomes, but more importantly, we're locked out of a few that we're probably going to want back!
When we're looking to raise capital, we're all thinking the same thing "We need more money to grow!" which of course makes sense. What we miss, however, is that taking on investors might increase the potential of our upside, but often comes at the cost of limiting other potential options that coul...
To grow or to profit, that is the question!
There we are, with a fistful of profit in our hands (finally!) and an endless list of places to spend it! Do we hire another engineer to get our product shipped faster? How about increasing our marketing budget to scale customer acquisition? Or, and let's just get crazy, do we finally pay ourselves?
I'm going to go out on a limb and spat in the face of startup lore, which suggests that the only way to succeed is to bet the farm and grow. Think of me as the owner of a casino (in this case, that casino is Startups.com) who gets to not only witness a handful of people bet it all and get rich, but 100x more bet it all and fail.
What we miss in our passion for greatness is that...
There's no golden age to start a company, but there is definitely a timer on when we can withstand failure. The question is — when does that timer expire for us?
As it happens, our numeric age isn't really what's driving our "Founder Expiration Date" — it's about how our age may reflect our relative appetite for risk. That's really a nice way of saying "What's the oldest I can be before I'm too old to recover from failure?"
Every year that goes by is another year we can't get back. When we're in our 20's and starting a company, we have our entire adult life to make up for the risk of failure. In many cases, we may not have a family or even a mortgage to worry about. At most, our failure may result in some lost years and a sh...