Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #56

Ryan Rutan: Welcome back to another episode of the startup therapy podcast, This is Ryan Rutan joined as ever by my partner and the ceo of startup dot com, Wil schroder will, we've been at this and by this, I mean, this startup, the startups dot com in some way, shape or form, we're coming up on a decade, man, it's been a decade, it's crazy, right? Like, which also means that my kids are about to be 10 years old, which also blows my mind, but yeah, but you know, but some really interesting things have kind of come out of this in terms of like our happiness, I would say our, our energy levels are health because, you know, we've chased a lot of things historically, you and I, you know, we've, we've done a lot of different businesses, a lot of different stuff we worked on, we've been doing this for almost 10 years, I mean we've certainly chased a lot of different objectives within the business, but it's always been focused on kind of the, the Northstar startups dot com and what we knew we wanted to build their and man for me, it's had a great impact in terms of energy levels and, you know, not having to change focus, not having to kind of reinvent and go back to the drawing board, which can sometimes feel really good in the short term, right? But the long term impact of just sticking this out has been, it's pretty awesome.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, I think it goes to a few different points, I know, I think I was just getting really burnt out after having done eight startups of constantly starting again at first. It was to your point Ryan, it was exhilarating, right? It was awesome and it got excited about the challenges, I got excited about, you know, everything about it. The problem was at some point I kind of zoomed out a bit and I said all I do is start things like I want to finish things,

Ryan Rutan: you know what I mean? Like

Wil Schroter: every great company isn't about how it started, it's about how it's finished. I've seen especially our business an awful lot of starts. I've had an awful lot of starts, but the only points you score the finishes.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, man, there's a lot of startups, there are far far fewer finish ups at this.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, yeah. And you know, I feel like it's not a trope that I think is is pushed out there enough, which is anybody can start something that's the easy part, finishing is the hard part.

Ryan Rutan: Oh yeah, we've, we've made this joke a couple of times in the podcast, but you know, like becoming a founder is sort of the, the, the easiest job you can take right, it's hard to do, but you can become a founder, four seconds from now by declaring yourself a founder, that's all it takes.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, exactly. And I think the other part of it was, I think in the back of my mind Oh no, I don't think I know in the back of my mind, I felt this ongoing pressure, this anxiety, this stress that was basically me saying this is a means to something else. I was constantly on that treadmill with the carrot dangling in front of me, running toward what that next thing was going to be without ever taking stock or maybe appreciating That I probably should have just been working on that next thing right now. I don't know why it took me so long to figure that 20 years to figure that out, but

Ryan Rutan: better late than never as with all things. But yeah, no, it's it's absolutely true. And so I think that's that's where we focused the attention to start, right? So what if there is no later, Right? So what if we just started doing these things now, right? What if we just determine that what we're doing now is the thing we want to be doing for the rest of our lives and or said differently if it's not then why the hell are you doing in the first place?

Wil Schroter: Yeah, exactly. Okay, so I'll give you just a little quick story before we started startups dot com and I was doing a whole bunch of different startups, it was actually running five startups at the same time. Three of them were venture backed startups. So I was, I mean I was in so many places at the same time and every time I had an idea for another one of these startups, I'd get so pumped about it, but it was always with this kind of build and flip mentality, which, you know, is exacerbated when you start raising capital, because that's specifically what you're at that point. And so I was constantly in this mindset of making these short term decisions that were more geared toward, how does this thing grow fast versus how do we build the best possible thing, regardless of how long it might take? And I don't, I'm not saying that that moving fast always equals building something poorly. And I'm not saying moving slow means building something great, you know, there's there's a happy medium, but that's not really what my problem was, it wasn't about just taking time, it was about this thought process, that growth was all that mattered. And it didn't really matter if what I was working on was something I cared about, it mattered that it was growing and it mattered that it would have an outcome

Ryan Rutan: yeah, more

Wil Schroter: Important. And I think that that grated on me for a while, you know, and so I think at some point in my mind, I just said everything that I've been doing for damn near 20 years at that point, everything that I've been doing has been leading up to what I think is going to be the next thing. And I also think that's a big part of being young is that you haven't, you haven't lived through the entire arc of life yet? So all you have are next things, you know, the person you're going to marry the kids, you're gonna have the house, you're going to buy the job you're going to get like everything is the next thing. Yeah,

Ryan Rutan: yeah. We get, we get pushed into this mentality of something better is coming next. Something better is coming next. It's not great for sure. So it's middle school and high school, it's high school, it's college now, what the hell do I do?

Wil Schroter: And no one really stops you. I think at any point and says, what about now? Yeah. You know, it's almost like at some point, yeah, yeah. It's almost like we're penalized for not looking, you know, into the future of the entire time. You know, they're talking about the live at the moment, but it's more like, hey, what if, what I'm doing now isn't the most important thing I could be doing right now. It isn't the most fulfilling thing I could be doing right now. And I don't know that we get pulled aside and asked that question or called to the carpet to answer it and essentially that's what that's what happened, I think, you know life did that to me, I just got to a point where I was so burnt out and I was doing was pulled in so many directions and I wasn't doing anything particularly well if I'm being honest with myself and I got to a point, I'm like, what am I trying to get to? And so I had this really interesting moment where I kind of just hit the brakes on everything and I stopped and I said, I don't want to do anything until whatever I'm going to do whatever I'm going to work on is the last thing that I ever do, and I don't know if I told you this before, but this is such a bizarre aside, there's a guy that I know Dharma shaw from hubspot. Yeah, prior to Dharma starting hubspot, he had started another company called on startups, it was a really company was like a community and actually still still running, remember he and I talking way back then, and uh he was talking about what he's going to work on, he's talking about what was going to become hubspot and I thought it was a cool idea, didn't really understand at the time, and it just kind of went out there, He raised a bunch of money from Sequoia, went public, whatever. Well, he was going public right around the time that I was having this kind of life changing moment. Incidentally, Garmisch, if you're listening to this, you've literally never heard this story and you have no idea where you fit into this timeline, but you did, and I remember around this time that I'm having this moment, I was looking at hubspot going public and I was really proud of what he had done, and I thought to myself, dude, This guy spent the last 10 years working on one thing with perfect focus and look at his outcome. I spent the last 10 years working on like six things, and it went okay, but I want to build what he's building, I want to build something seminal, I want to make it a life's work, and I want to make it something where every day that I put in is cumulative to what I'm going to build forever in Garmisch again, if you're hearing this probably just evenly and tell you, but you actually, at that moment had inspired me to kind of change course, and I remember specifically thinking about this going, okay, well, cool, what does that mean? Right, if I want to work on the last thing I ever do, that feels like a pretty high bar, you know what I mean?

Ryan Rutan: It is, and I mean, of course, I think it's, it can be a little hard to commit to those things when you're just starting something. I wonder how much of this discussion can actually be had at the, at the very early stage versus you're a couple of years into it, and you decide at that point, yeah, this is the one I I know enough about it now, I feel strongly enough about it, I'm going to stick this out, I can go back in time for myself and think that a number of the things that you know, I started and then let go of either through sale or just winding down, I'm not sure I would have kept any of this. I'm not sure that just sticking those out would have actually been the right move right in doing the ad hoc analysis, which of course is far easier than doing it in real time as you're doing this. And I remember a few things, there were a few things that were happening at those times when I made the decisions and I'm trying to, trying to back into my logic now some of it was of course shiny ball syndrome, right? There was something else that I was more excited to go and do write something else came along and of course, you know, as you start a company and then as you start to push it past the first growth heard on the second, the third, the fourth, it doesn't necessarily get easier right. In fact, a lot of times it gets harder to do that. And so you think about the quick and easy winds of starting a new company and kind of getting it off the ground, The excitement, the adrenaline of that compared to I have to keep pushing this boulder up this hill and it's probably two more years before I hit the next real milestone with this one, Maybe it just be easier to go and start something else. And so I think you know, some of that is going to be hard to erase. But I also think that when I look at what those businesses were and had I stuck with them, I don't think that I would have developed the same passion for the mission behind those companies as I have with, with startups dot com now said differently, not in the shape that they were in when I sold them or not with the, with the form, but I think that you could also come to that realization and say, hey, this is exactly what I want. I am the founder, let me steer this into being something that's a bit more fruitful, a bit different. My buddy brian Harris, right? So I'll tell us a story about my buddy, um, started the company video fruit a couple of years ago and he's moved on to growth tools now at this point and you know, he was still using a video fruit email, I think he still is, that company has nothing to do with what he's doing now, but he didn't really let that stop him, right? And he's continued and it's still a continuity that same company, but he realized that wasn't really what he wanted to be building. So he just started building what he did want to build, um, kind of as the car was moving, he decided to change the tires and turned the whole thing around that's definitely possible to write and you can do that, we have that power. The other thing that I think is just 11 more point on this and I think this is an important one for me. We talk a lot about following your passion. I also think there's something really important to consider about where passion actually comes from and I think there's one factor one facet of passion that we often overlook and that's mastery and I think that in a lot of cases they can certainly follow each other. But I think far more often when I look at people who I see doing work they're passionate about and then I find out where that passion came from. It came after their mastery. It wasn't passion that led them to master the task, it was mastering the task that led them to be passionate about it. And so I think this does make a case for the stick to itiveness and seeing things through,

Wil Schroter: you know I think there's another dynamic that comes with that I think for all of us were used to in life being able to say I'll make it up later, right? You know this to be deferred living. You know I'll work on this thing right now that I don't care as much about but again it's a means to an end so that I can enjoy this other thing later kind of an interesting T. L. D. R. On that though, I don't know that many people I'm struggling to try to even cite one in my head who have done that in the thing later totally made up for all the deferred living going on. And let me be specific, I did that in my life, early in my career I deferred like almost a decade of life if you will in order to try to advance my career and it worked right and I'm so thankful for the outcomes etcetera. So I don't want to overlook that. However, it also put me on a bit of a path where I just got used to differing things, right? Like I kept saying to myself, I'll just you know, I'll build this thing now so I can get this thing later except whenever the later came, I just kind of reset the goal line and I said, okay well there's this next later thing and I'll wait for that and this next later. And when I looked back I was like man, there weren't a lot of cases where I just said, hey, what about now, Like what if now is the most important time and later is probably just an excuse for not taking advantage of the moment.

Ryan Rutan: I think there's something really important there, right? And that's that if you don't have a clear objective for what you're trying to accomplish with the deferred living the deferred Fund the deferred family dinners, whatever it is that you're you're giving up for now and that there isn't some sort of a finite goal attached to that to your point. It just becomes habitual, you just learn to keep deferring life. And I don't know that there's anything other than like some of these like really hard triggers and you know, you and I both experienced some both in terms of health families, a big one, right? At some point, once there's other people involved in your life, they may not be as willing to defer anything. Um, as you are like, I can't get my two year old to defer anything for more than about eight seconds without a full meltdown at this point, some external forces come in. But I think you're right, man, it can be really, really dangerous if you just get used to differing things all the time, that just becomes the behavior and there's no purpose to it, it just becomes your default.

Wil Schroter: So I had this really life changing thought experiment at the time and I kind of just backed into it. It's it's not something I kind of thought out. And I said to myself, what if all of my goals had to be accomplished right now. In other words, I couldn't set goals for next year or the year after everything that was important to me had to be done right now. And by the way, why it took me 20 years to ask that question. I also don't know which is why I that's why I'm bringing it up for this podcast in hopes that someone else will, you know, get some benefit from that. But all of a sudden like everything stopped, like the world just hit the brakes and I was like, okay, let's see, I have to do everything now. What does that look like? Well, I only want to work on stuff that I really care about right now, Right? And I'm like, Huh? How did that not occur to me for 20

Ryan Rutan: years?

Wil Schroter: Right. And so, you know, we've talked about this before and I sat down and I said, here are the things that I really want to do here is what's important to me. And I said, what if all along, I've been thinking about like what my retirement job will look like when I have like made so much money or accomplished so much or done so much where I can just enjoy that. And then I thought to myself, why wouldn't I want to go do that job now? Why wait until later? And I think it's really easy to make excuses about why that can't be done. I'll give you the most wrote answer I hear from entrepreneurs about why they want to make money is so that they can become an angel investor and invest in other people's companies,

Ryan Rutan: which

Wil Schroter: by the way, like is such a weird answer considering like if you were built to build things, why would you not want to go build them? But regardless, you know, to each his own. But I think they later on find out that that's only so exciting. It's like saying, I want to be Michael Jordan's and win six rings so that I can go watch basketball if you're Michael Jordan you should be playing

Ryan Rutan: regarding. I was thinking

Wil Schroter: bob Vila when he,

Ryan Rutan: when he stopped building stuff and just started slinging nails for Home Depot. He became infinitely less interesting to me at that point.

Wil Schroter: Well, let's be fair norm Abrams did all the work anyway, it's true. But anyway, so but look, man, I got to this point where I'm thinking to myself, why don't I just work on my retirement job now? So, you know, I zoomed out and I said, what is that job? Like? You know, what does that involve? And I said, that's going to involve basically talking to entrepreneurs all day about founder stuff, right? And again, I didn't know what how that was going to turn into a company or a job or anything else like that. But I said, look, so long as I'm doing that for the rest of my life, I win, I don't beat somebody else. I mean I win on my own life, I win at this thing called life. And it's funny that's kind of all it took. Like we're just shifting my focus little fundamental

Ryan Rutan: changes in life, especially

Wil Schroter: when, you know, you've got

Ryan Rutan: a few years behind, you can have such a profound impact on what happens next because you kind of understand how to leverage those things against your future then. And I think that, you know, having these realizations when we're younger don't necessarily mean as much as you were telling this story around your thought experiment and I don't remember, it was a philosophy class. Um, but we went through one of those thought exercises where we had to, we had to write an essay and it was based on three questions. What would you do if you, you knew you would only live out the year? What would you do if you knew you would only live out the month? What would you do if you remember that day? Right? So that's exactly what I'm thinking. I'm like, so I learned that lesson, right? I got to go through that exercise. I know, my God, I wish I had that essay now to see what sort of inane shit I would have told myself to do in a year in a month and day, I'm sure wouldn't rank at this point. But um, but you know, I was exposed to the concept at least of this type of like, you know, hyper focused, hyper intense prioritization, but it didn't sink in, right. It didn't sit with me and it didn't actually impact any of my behavior other than probably just being really like antsy for a couple of days. I thought about what if I did that tomorrow, I didn't still here,

Wil Schroter: you know, it's really awesome though. I think when you do at least set your North Star to say, look, I just want to work on my retirement job or whatever I really care about right now. All of a sudden you're not racing to get somewhere right. Like all of a sudden like damn, this is I kind of win because I'm already doing it and it doesn't have to be exactly what the end game pieces, it could just be the first step toward that end game. But I think once you realize you're, where you're supposed to be, at least for me, it takes a tremendous amount of anxiety off of life because it's almost like finding the person you want to marry When you're 10 years old, right? Assuming you could even pull that off. But in other words like just, yes, this is the perfect person for me. I'll never find another person etcetera because there isn't a better person because you somehow know right? We're spending all the time and in frustration and anxiety we go through and being single and trying to find a mate, et cetera or really anything in life where you're spending your whole life to try to get there.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, well when you're, when you're just focused on the destination, you miss out on a lot and I think this is another one of those lessons, It's funny, you know, going back in time, We used to do these drives as kids right before iPads before all that. So we're, all I could do was look out a window. And I remember like I knew how to go from point a. To point B, I knew if we're gonna go visit my grandmother, the fastest way to get there was to streak up 71 to Cleveland. And sure enough my dad would veer off onto route 42 or 3 15 or something and my sister and I would just grown because we knew it was going to add an hour and a half, two hours to the trip and it's just so frustrating at that age with that mentality. And I remember asking my dad once like dad, why can't we just go, You know, up 71, he's like, well if we go up 71 it'll take two hours, if we go up this route it's gonna take us 3.5 is like, but in one scenario I'm not going to enjoy two hours at all and in this scenario will enjoy all 3.5, he's like, so for me it's not taking an extra hour and a half of time to get there, it's giving me an extra two hours of enjoyment in my day that I wouldn't have otherwise had. And I was like, well that's really profound, I still don't care. Dad, can we just get there faster at this point, I get it right when you get solely focused on the destination, particularly in a startup sense where that destination can just keep moving a little further out, a little further out. And I was talking to somebody and for context, everybody, we're recording this in the midst of the, the covid lockdown, right? So we're all on on some form of lockdown at this point and the world is kind of a weird place right now. I was talking to somebody about the stock market two days ago and this individual is super excited about all the opportunities. And I was I was asking so what, you know, what's the trading philosophy right now? And he's like, well, you know, just maximizing everything, you know, like just okay, well, you know, to what point is like just as much as possible, like, okay, well like what are your triggers, like when we need to get out? It's like when I just let it go as high as it can, like Yeah, but what does that look like, man, you can't just keep saying like bigger more because there's no end to that, right? And I think that that's that's a an easy trap to fall into particularly in the startup space where if you're always focused on a destination, the destination just keeps moving further away from you every time you get closer, you're eventually going to burn out, right? It just doesn't work that way. All it takes is a shift in mentality to say, I don't have to get there, as long as I'm enjoying the path to getting there, you're in a totally different world, right? Nothing changed about what you do with your day to day, just the way you're thinking about it,

Wil Schroter: we'll think about that for a second, think about how much anxiety, like if we had a pie chart of our anxiety, how much of that pie is loaded up with our anxiety right around what's gonna be next. Like if we knew for sure exactly, you know, that everything would be great and this is exactly what we want to do. We can kind of take a minute and just relax and kind of enjoy it, right? But when we're constantly in fear of, hey, is this going to lead to this, is this going to lead to, this is gonna lead to this? It, it makes us frantic. I know it did for me, I spent so much energy and I look back and it's just so frustrating, I spent so much energy trying to work on getting to that next thing that at no point was I really enjoying where I was at the moment and I don't think I realized that at the time

Ryan Rutan: you don't, you don't, it's funny because once you get past that what you realize that I'm thinking about things like product launches now, right? So when you're, you know, just all you're so concerned about getting to that next product launch and, and you know, how's it gonna work and what we follow that with and you know, how we maximize that, how we leverage that it takes the fun out of it completely. When you have that mental shift and you're just worried about not worried, I'm gonna take the word worry out of that. When you're just thinking about how to build the best product you can, how to how to make it a great lunch, how to really enjoy the process. It's a totally different experience, right? You look forward to the product launch with anticipation as opposed to trepidation where you're worried about what that outcome is going to be. And I'm not saying don't worry about how you launch your products and don't worry about, you know, what happens to them, but focus the energy instead on doing everything that is within your power to make it a great product, to make it a great launch as opposed to endless analytical cycles around what if what if what if what if? Because you don't know, and you don't need to be prepared for all of them because most of them you can't impact anyways, right? And I'm certainly have been guilty of that in the past to a degree that was very, very unhealthy in terms of, over analyzing and just kind of trying to work out every possible scenario and then being wrong about all of many ways, So didn't do me any good.

Wil Schroter: Well look, I think aside from the stress of what's next, there's some other really important parts to, you know, building the last startup we'll ever do. I think when you know you're building the last startup, you'll ever do. I think part of you two, you get a long view and how you treat your employees, how you treat your customers, how you treat your partners, just how you treat the community at large, you know that you're going to be part of that for a very long time, ideally the rest of your life and you take it really seriously. You know, if if something goes sideways, you're not like a bucket. You know, we're gonna get out of this and be onto the next one anyway, as people could treat investors that way. They could treat customers that way, etcetera When you're like in our case and like look, we're gonna be doing this hopefully knock on wood for 50 years. Then you look at things a bit differently. Like if I send the wrong message to the market, if I do the wrong thing, I'm accountable for the rest of my life, I think you make much more serious decisions when you put it in that context. Yeah.

Ryan Rutan: And I think, I think it forces you to measure them appropriately too because then if you realize, okay, you know, if I'm laboring, you know, a subject line on an email for example and yes, that will have an impact on the business. Yes, that will have an impact on customer acquisition. Yes, that will determine how quickly we grow our network. Will that matter to the business 12 years from now? Probably not right now. If you're sending out a critical communication around, you know, like the ones that you've sent over the last couple of weeks around how we're communicating to our, our staff, how we're handling covid and how we're, what we're doing to ensure that, you know, everyone remains whole and healthy and happy in their jobs, that could have lasting impact on the company. And so that does deserve the cycle. So I think it's, it's not about being sort of zen about everything, it's about figuring out what you can be zen about and what you need to get all up in arms about and where you do need to kind of dig in your heels and say this is worth getting stressed out over, this is worth putting in extra cycles. This is worth staying up late for,

Wil Schroter: I think if more companies startups in particular adopted this. Longview of look, this is the last startup until the next startup and let me just be clear. We're not so kind of blinded or you know, have such tunnel vision, which is to say if x big company came to us and offered us a ton of money for our business would probably take it, right. It just, this isn't the same as no one will take this out of my cold dead hands. Um so I mean we don't we don't hate money, we're not divorced from reality. So I want to make sure that there's not a sense of, I mean these guys have lost their minds like they're outside of an economic reality. No that's not the case at all, but that's not how we're planning. I think I think when folks think about the long term and I looked at the google founders, Zuckerberg and facebook and I remember in the early, early era, particularly when facebook got their billion dollar acquisition offer from yahoo which at the time seemed absurd, right?

Ryan Rutan: But

Wil Schroter: then Zuckerberg turned it down which no one could believe, right? No one could believe and it fascinated me because he said I want to build something for the long term. And and I remember thinking man I don't know I made a billion dollars is an awful lot of money, especially at the time. Again, you know people that's all I can think about right now

Ryan Rutan: is man yeah who

Wil Schroter: had a billion

Ryan Rutan: dollars at one point. Yeah,

Wil Schroter: I made a lot of people awfully rich. But listen I was thinking about that time, he said something I thought was really fascinating and so did the google guys, he said I want to build something for the long term, I want to build something seminal, I don't want to be a department of another company. I want to build, you know, the company that has those departments and I thought, wow, what a powerful way to think about the future of a company, right? What a powerful way to make decisions again. Not with how quickly can we grow it in order to make it have enough value to flip it, but how can we build something that becomes a staple in the economy and the community etcetera and what kind of long term thinking and decisions and culture would you build with that thought process in mind? And I was always really enamored by that, which is why, you know, Ryan for what we're building now. I feel really proud about it because I feel like we've put ourselves in a position quite deliberately where we can work on something that we care about. We don't have this pressure over our heads where it's got to be built to flip. If we want to work on something that we just care about like this podcast, we can, the podcast doesn't make us any money. It's not part of our revenue plan. It's not part of our growth plan necessarily. I mean people listen to it and hopefully maybe buy our products, but at the end of the day we do because we, we like it, we enjoy it and I think I forget that we're podcasting

Ryan Rutan: about half the time. I forget that this is actually a podcast. It's just like these are the conversations we were having anyways. We've just finally hit record.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, also true. Also true. It's worth noting for some of the folks that may have been listening to this in the past. Ryan, I do literally just hit the record button and talk, we prep for about 60 seconds and just go, but it goes back to because it doesn't feel like work, but it's something we really enjoy. And I think it would be wonderful to hear more startups, founders, let's say at a cocktail party brag about how they're building something forever Now again, it's forever until it's not, it's forever until you decide, hey, it's no longer for me, right? You know, Ryan, you and I might decide at some point, this just isn't for us anymore and go do something else. Nothing wrong with that. But the mentality isn't that the mentality is, let's build something seminal that can stand the test of time and poorer energy into it that way. I wish that was more of the conversation amongst founders because ironically, even for the venture funded ones, I think they just build better companies, hang on that one for a second. The stick, The stick there for a second. So for the venture companies,

Ryan Rutan: how can they avoid being forced in that mentality And does it require avoiding venture capital in the first place, which then begs the question, well, would that company's been possible. And you and I have talked about this a lot in the past in a different context, but not something we've ever truly beat up here. We have talked about when to take capital, when not to take capital. But in that case let's just assume that the company did need venture funding for some reason. I almost always think that there's a way to avoid it. But let's assume for some reason that it does need, it is a fundamental piece of how the company will start and grow. Sure. How do you avoid it then when you've got all that pressure, right, Is that I mean, we could, we could say something like, well, you know, it's investor selection. You got to find people who are brought into the mission and they're willing to take the long view as well, which I think would rule out all the venture capital, right? That's just not fundamentally. It kind of does because

Wil Schroter: essentially the VCS themselves Raised money from their limited partners, their LPS on the promise that they'd have a return within 10 years. So that ship sailed the moment they, you know, folks took the money now every now and again, you can kind of navigate that a bit differently and there's different ways to get to liquidity. Not everything has to be a sale. It could be an I. P. O. And you still continue mission. So again not everything is lost. Once you take venture money Every now and again you get a curve ball, like you remember Kickstarter raised like $10 million dollars and then decided that they were basically gonna be almost like a quasi nonprofit like

Ryan Rutan: super happy investors when you do that, by the way, that makes them so gleeful to watch you turn their their ragged D. Into a 5013 C.

Wil Schroter: But I think most folks would agree investors inclusive that if the mentality was more around building a great self standing product that that would create more value than just trying to build a metrics based product that if it hits these metrics, if it hits this growth curve then it has value and sells. Don't get me wrong, plenty of investors love that piece too. But I think for as founders and all we really care about is founders as founders. If we were all working on our seminal product, seminal being the thing that we would do forever or at least in our minds could last forever, then I think we treat it differently. I think that my treatment and my approach to startups dot com is night and day different than all of my last eight businesses like night and day different. Like I've got another analog for you.

Ryan Rutan: I grew up with a lot of younger cousins. I was, I was almost uh, I was eight years older than, than the next cousin. And so for a long time in my early adulthood like college into, you know, before I had kids, I spent a lot of time with him, you know, my aunts and uncles would send them down and I would, I would hang out with them, I take them out, you know, we'd play, I'd take them to the water park, do whatever, right? But I was never too concerned right? Like I was, I was the cool, I was kind of like an uncle that I was, the cool uncle was just a cousin. It was a cool uncle, you know, that would, you know, let them eat what they wanted to, let them stay up past their bedtime, all that stuff, you can bet your ass, I don't do that with my kids because I'm playing the long game with them. I got to send my cousin's home at the end of the weekend. I gotta keep my kids all the time. And so I take a very, very different view of the decisions I make with my own kids than I did with with some of my, my family. Sorry about that guys, I'm gonna apologize to all my aunts and uncles now for whatever short term damage I may have done to your kids,

Wil Schroter: but think about that. So if if all of us are starting to have this really kind of final seminal were tethered to this, this is the building blocks of our world, wonder that we want to share with the world forever. Think of how much passion goes into that, you know, think of how much we won't compromise in order to build such a great company and while we're doing it, heaven forbid actually enjoy it right? Be able to say, man, like I'm working on this product or this product or this product because I really enjoy it because it's something that's really important to me and I hope it makes money. I hope it drives growth. But you know what, like that's kind of an outcome and a byproduct of what I'm doing. It's not 100% the goal and I think it's a luxury by the way, you know, us being able to do this podcast right now is a luxury. It's a luxury we've earned by working our assess off and making sure we have a company that pays bills, right? But it's also deliberate. Like we got into this specific business so we could do stuff like this, you know what I mean? That means to an end.

Ryan Rutan: It's not an accidental byproduct, right? It's exactly aligned with what we said we were going to do now, is it? You know, 100% business purpose focus, right? If we were venture funded, would our investors be sitting back going, man, I'm glad those guys spend a couple hours talking to each other and recording it for for people that we don't actually care about to listen to on a weekly basis, you know, they wouldn't be saying that we wouldn't have. So that piece of is the luxury. But the other side of that is, and to your point, it's aligned with what we're supposed to be doing based on the original thesis. This is exactly the kind of thing that we said we wanted to be able to do and we built a business that it makes sense to do this for and that is very powerful.

Wil Schroter: So I think for other founders, I think we all go through these phases where at the beginning you do what you have to do, right? And I always try to kind of take things back and say, yeah, hey, it's cool that will and Ryan can be on a podcast. But dude, we're going into like year nine, you know, we didn't just start this yesterday, we've been at this for a very long time and every year that progressed, we started to trade things we have to do for things we want to do, right? But the slider was all the way on the have to do part in year one, right? And if you listen to this podcast and listen to the hellscape that we went through emotionally financially, physically, then you'll understand very well when we say, you know, we've transitioned from have to want to do. However, now that we're on the other side of it, I gotta say we didn't differ a ton. I mean we did. I mean we made sacrifices don't get me wrong, but I love those sacrifices because we knew exactly what we were trying to build because it wasn't a means to some amorphous end. We knew exactly where we wanted to get to and we worked every day to kind of shorten that distance so that we could be doing more or less what we're doing now. Yeah, I mean, I think going

Ryan Rutan: back to the point you made around the luxury of being able to get into the want to do not just have to do category is is something you, you do have to kind of work your way into. Doesn't start from the beginning now. That's not to say you can't enjoy that stuff to. Um, and it's funny because like, and I think again, this is one of those reasons why you, you may decide to jump back into a startup. You want some of that early stage adrenaline, you want some of that. You know, I need to stay up late and get stuff done. I don't know if it was today or yesterday, one or the other. I mentioned to Elliott, it's like, man, I'm ready to be burnt out. And then I qualified that statement by saying that like I'm in a mood and uh, mindset and I think part of it's just like I'm having a little bit of caged lions syndrome right now being trapped in the house for the last three weeks, you know, with fruitful work to be done, so I'm not complaining, I literally have nothing to complain about, but I think I'm having a little cage lion syndrome and I was telling him, I was like, man, I just, I want to define a couple of things right now to just absolutely pour myself into until I'm exhausted. I literally want to run myself to an exhaustion point right now. Um not because I have to write, but because there are enough things in front of me right now that I feel strongly about that we can be doing that, we have to do that, we can't be doing. I just want to exhaust myself doing them just because I can write and sometimes that feels good, sometimes you want to go and push yourself to a limit and in this case rather than saying, okay, well, you know, what could I start next? I'm just looking at that and saying, look, I know enough about this business at this point, I know how much I care about, I know how long I want to be doing this, I now know that not only can I for that same level of energy into this more mature business than a startup, but I have more certainty around why I would do it and actually feel better than doing that under the full uncertainty of a new startup. So yeah, there's a lot of interesting things that come with time and experience into that point made early on around passion and mastery. I have absolutely gotten more and more passionate about what we're doing and take more enjoyment out of doing some of the same things over and over again. Right? Like you and I have conversations with founders all the time. They're not always completely different and yet each one I enjoy a little more because I know I've honed my craft a little bit more. I have a better answer for the same question. I have an extra two examples to share of somebody I know that has been through that where I've been through it myself now and I take even more pride and pleasure away from that because of the mastery.

Wil Schroter: That's

Ryan Rutan: a wrap for this episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan on behalf of my partner Wil Schroder and all the startups dot com. Family thanking you for joining us and we hope you'll continue to join us. Be sure to subscribe, rate and comment on itunes or wherever you love to listen to startup therapy, you can find all of our episodes at startups dot com slash podcast. If you're looking for more, amazing resources to launch or grow your startup, be sure to head to startups dot com and check out startups unlimited. It's everything we have to offer from our online university to our amazing community of experts and founders and even all the tools we've built like biz plan fungible and launch rocks. It's everything a founder needs, visit startups dot com slash begin that startups dot com slash b e g i N. You'll thank me later.

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