“Startups are damn hard”, but rewarding..

I read Jazzy Chad’s emotional and brutal ‘Startups are hard post‘ and wanted to add my own comments. I don’t know Chad but in my opinion he’s being very hard on himself. His lack of reaching his goals and achievements seems to be tearing him apart and making him frustrated and bitter. Yes I agree startups are damn hard, but they are also rewarding, fun and fulfilling. Let us not forget this.

I’ve drawn out and condensed some of Chad’s text and added my comments. I thank Chad for his passion, honesty and putting this in the open.

Startups are hard. No, startups are damn hard.

“Startups that die rarely talk about it publicly because it is frustrating, embarrassing, and most of the time the people involved want to forget the whole mess and move on rather than sit around talking about the fact that they failed.

Most people don’t want to admit that startups are hard, either, because to admit something is hard is to admit that you don’t know everything there is to know about a certain topic and to display weakness.”

I whole heartily agree (admit) that startups are damn hard. I’ve always said this 5 ‘Shocking’ things founding a startup, Startup vs Home Life, Entrepreneurs: Beating the employee out of you.. You have to admit something to truly embrace it. We failed when we started.

My co-founder and I spent seven months and a pile of cash building something that went nowhere. It took us time to get over it but we did. There were lessons to be learnt from this experience, they just take time before you see all the dots join.

You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You

“In the Valley, you are a Nobody until you are a Somebody. Trying to launch a new product as a Nobody is hard. Trying to get press as a Nobody is very hard because nobody knows who you are and so they don’t care about your product.

Raising money as a Nobody isn’t just hard, it is nearly impossible. There are a few major factors that investors look at when making an investment decision. Two big factors are Traction and Revenue.”

We’re not in the valley, so I can’t comment on this location, but I know nobody is listening to us where we are! In my mind the only people that real love comes from is your customers. We prefer to focus on them.

“Jealousy… is a mental cancer.” -B.C. Forbes

“Am I jealous of other companies’ success? I would be lying if I said no. I am slightly jealous when I wake up and read another story about some company raising a million dollars for some idea that makes absolutely no sense to me, or seeing an acquisition of a company for a product I did not feel was particularly well executed.”

I do also suffer from this sometimes. My ego gets in the way. But then I remember the reality: it’s not easy and that mostly everyone will have been through many, many challenges to become a success!

Sacrifice

“Startups demand sacrifice… Has it all been worth it? If you are expecting me to say “Yes, of course!” you would be wrong. The truth is, it hasn’t been worth it at all… yet.

Financially speaking, we are much worse off now than when I took the plunge. Of course the goal is for it to be worth it someday, but it is unclear how long it will ultimately take. In other aspects of my life, it may have been worth it so far, but it is hard to quantify those things.”

Yes, startups demand sacrifice! Has it been worth it for me, hell yeah. I’ve said this before: “You have to let it all go…fear…doubt & disbelief…Free your mind! and Life, death & startups. Why’s it been worth it – because startups aren’t just about the money.

They’re about life. More specifically life experiences with people around you.. Don’t get me wrong money is vital. It’s the lubricant for our companies. But money is not the heart and soul of an organisation, a company. It’s in the people: co-founders, colleagues, friends (including your customers).

Startup Depression

“…The ultimate reality, though, is that we failed utterly at fundraising. We ended up wasting a lot of time. We had dozens and dozens of intros which led to about 40 or so meetings. After spending 3 months and hearing “No” 39 times we decided to just give up raising money. We looked around and felt like everyone around us was raising insane rounds with no problem. The net effect was that it killed our morale dead.”

After hearing, “UR DOING IT WRONG!” so many times, it’s hard to think that you’re doing anything right. At that point it’s very hard to soldier on. We had made a terrible mistake; we had given control to the investors, and they weren’t even giving us money!…

The lesson here is, if you are having trouble putting together a round in the first few weeks of actual investor meetings, just say, “screw it,” and get back to working ASAP.”

Every time I go into a conversation with an investor or investment adviser, all I hear is demand after demand.. This has happened right from the beginning of our startup. They want a solid product, more revenues, more customers, longer term contract, etc.. On and on it goes.

On the other hand you have customers. They are different. Yes, there are demands but they are willing to pay if you’re of value. Don’t get me wrong investors are vital but customers come first and I think Chad is getting that wrong way round.

Going Forward

“Which leads us to: so what now? Paul and I are not ready to quit. I personally don’t really know how to quit. When I make a commitment, there is very little that will stop me from following through, even in the face of adversity. I believe you have to adapt to play the cards you are dealt. We are willing to see this through to the bitter end if necessary. If this means changing course and trying something new, then sobeit, but while there is money in the bank we will continue on. We have some ideas and are investigating them further.”

For me knowing when to quit is the hardest question for any startup founder! Unfortunately startup founders often become obsessed by achievement at any cost. They become like sports people who over-train and leave little time for recovery. This leads to burn out or diminishing returns. A vicious circle of in frustration and bitterness is then formed. Sometimes you have to take a break to see the bigger picture or quit to succeed!! 

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3 Responses to ““Startups are damn hard”, but rewarding..”

  1. Tanning Expert Says:

    Starting a business is never easy! x

  2. Jason Burrows Says:

    Nick

    As someone going through Start-up ‘Heaven & Hell’, the almost bi-polar nature of your’s and Chad’s responses is exactly; in anyone day, never mind over a period of months. It’s good, and reassuring to know that we are never alone in this process, in fact, we only make ourselves feel so, because we find it hard to admit failure, even to ourself. It’s a fear that if faced up to would not seem so daunting.

  3. Nick Barker Says:

    Thanks for the comment Jason.

    Its so true, a day in the life of a startup founder is a roller coaster of a ride. I really like this post from Tim Ferris – http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2008/10/03/harnessing-entrepreneurial-manic-depression-making-the-rollercoaster-work-for-you/ – We’re not alone in feeling this 🙂

    Personally, I find that there are many, many more ups than downs though. If or when that ratio changes I think I’ll look for alternative employment.

    Admitting failure, even to ourselves, is the eccentric part of entrepreneurship. As said ‘ There is a fine line between entrepreneurship and insanity’! We see things other don’t and then act and believe in them..

    I find that the downs are in infact challenges that push us to do better and excel. Without the occasional ‘Oh my God’, “we’re screwed’ or ‘they’ve just stolen our lunch’ moments, it would be boring 😉

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