Thoughts after 8 months in my own startupPosted on November 10th, 2010 No comments
It’s been nearly eight months since I co-founded FeedBrewer, Inc., and five months since drawing a traditional salary.
In the days leading up to the company’s formation, and especially before leaving the comfort of having someone else paying me, I’ve learned that I was actually better prepared than I thought. I should have started my own company a long time ago. But I’ll never forget the sleepless nights in the early days when I would wake up in a cold sweat, heart thumping, wondering if I was making a big mistake for myself and my family.
A good friend just moved to Boulder, and I’ve been telling him that he’s a startup waiting to happen. After he shared some of his fears with me I sent him the following in an e-mail. I’m sharing this more broadly in the hopes that others will benefit (but with personal information removed.
Are You Ready for Your Own Startup?
If you’ve always dreamed of running your own startup company, your temptation will be to think that you’re not ready. After 8 months I’ve learned that you’re ready if the following are true:
- You have planned ahead financially, which means having savings to draw on and reducing your expenses. Every true startup has to go through the “ramen phase.” No real startup is sustained on steak dinners. (The 1990s were an aberration in that regard).
- Your family and support network is on board. If they’re not you need to either get them on board (which can take a while), or change course. This can take time. Looking back, while my wife was supportive of my startup, I can’t say that she was necessarily excited about it. Something changed after a few months and she started to see that I was making traction. She started coming up with ideas, then asked to be involved. Then other friends, family and even neighbors did the same. This is the biggest factor in my startup’s success that I never considered in the early stages, but now consider essential.
- You’re passionate about what you’re trying to do. Your startup has to be something that makes you get up every day with a smile on your face because you know you’re building meaning, and because it makes you proud. Note that I didn’t say anything about money here. The promise of making a lot of money has to come second in my opinion, because otherwise the ramen doesn’t taste so good.
- You are passionate about building something that you own and fully control, and you’re comfortable with taking responsibility for its successes and failures.
- You want true personal freedom and financial independence. Someone once told me “Money is stored up choices.” If you think of money that way, you know that all the time and sacrifice you put into a startup will pay off one day with freedom. You can look forward to not feeling like you have to do certain things just to maintain your lifestyle, whatever it may be. My personal financial goal is to one day be able to focus my energies solely on things that I feel are making a positive difference in the world and/or are just fun. Everything else is secondary to that.
- You have a Plan B if your startup doesn’t work out on a predetermined timeframe. If my startup were to fail (and I seriously doubt that now based on recent developments), my plan has always been to create so much heat and light during its existence that it makes me infinitely more employable should I need to go back to work for a traditional company. Nobody ever faults someone for giving something their best, and every noble effort is experience that you can put on your resume.
I suspect most future entrepreneurs reading this will be able to say yes to 80% of the conditions above. The trick is to get past 1) and 2), and that takes planning and time. But in my experience, if you’re truly passionate about what you’re trying to do, you will do it. Maybe not today, but when you and those around you are ready.
And my last message to my friend was this: “When you’re ready I will be right down there in the trenches with you cheering you on and helping you any way I can!”
I will do this for any entrepreneur who I know and respect. Why? Because so many others have done it for me. I never understood the value of community to entrepreneurship and small business until I ran my own startup. Giving back to other newbies is my way to pay back what I received from the Karma bank.